4. A trend develops for floundering local newspapers to be bought out by local entrepreneurs, returning control and vested interest to their communities.
5.The Leveson inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the UK press concludes nothing needs to be done about unethical and/or illegal media practices, as they are redundant because everyone is publicly revealing everything about themselves on social media sites like Facebook anyway.
6. Journalists are officially declared to be bloggers, thereby ending a perennial (and very tedious) debate.
It seems Adam Werrity isn’t the only one to have been caught using a business card he shouldn’t have. The Daily Mail, unable to obtain their own picture of Werrity’s now-infamous “Advisor to Rt. Hon. Liam Fox MP” card, simply scanned the Guardian’s. But this wasn’t a right-click-save-image-as off the Guardian website, some enterprising staffer at the Mail actually scanned it right off the newspaper. Brilliant.
The copy was spotted by blogger Tim Ireland, who made his discovery after about 10 seconds’ sleuthing. See his damning evidence from Mail Online below.
The speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow described the Daily Mail as a “sexist, racist, bigoted, comic cartoon strip” yesterday, according to a Guardian report.
Speaking at an event at the Guardian offices in Kings Place, Bercow also apologised for breaking the trade descriptions act in calling the Mail a newspaper.
Bercow has been on the receiving end of strong criticism in the past from the Daily Mail political sketch writer Quentin Letts, who recently described him as a “preening, sycophantic, short-tempered and grotesque”.
Bercow was also quizzed about injunctions at the Q&A session with the Independent’s chief political commentator Steve Richards.
Despite warning John Hemming MP in the house recently over his naming of Ryan Giggs in relation to a privacy injunction, Bercow told Richards that “no super-injunction should be preventing colleagues from trying to debate issues”, adding that “it would be very sad if the sovereign nature of parliament as a whole and the House of Commons in particular was eroded by the judiciary.”
He did criticise Hemming at the event however, noting that: “Debating principles and issues is very different from violating an order to score a point.”
The venerable old day of leg-pulling and pranking is upon us again, and British news institutions are doing their bit for the fun. Some better than others, it must be said. Here is a short round-up of some headline hilarity from the web.
The Guardian went big and bold with a mock-election campaign designed to show the rough and ready side of our beloved PM:
Brown aides had worried that his reputation for volatility might torpedo Labour’s hopes of re-election, but recent internal polls suggest that, on the contrary, stories of Brown’s testosterone-fuelled eruptions have been almost entirely responsible for a recent recovery in the party’s popularity.
While the traditionally rowdy readers of the Guardian were treated to this new bar-room-brawling Brown, the refined readers of the National Union of Journalist’s site woke up to the news that the bruiser and the posh boy, along with that other one Clegg, were all joining the NUJ executive council as part of a new “affinity programme”.
Through our new affinity scheme NUJ members will now be able to join the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties at a reduced rate. In fact, from now on they can also get membership of all three parties for the price of one, which we believe will appeal particularly to our members at the Guardian and elsewhere.
It would mean that two beams of protons would be travelling in clockwise and counterclockwise directions at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light, within feet of Circle line passengers stuck in perpetual immobility.
(Meanwhile the boffins were up to some riotous hilarity of their own over in Switzerland (in that charming science-humour sort of way…), declaring that high-energy collisions within the newly restarted LHC had unearthed a “paleoparticle”. In other words, “a hideous particle from the prehistory of the Universe”.)
Also on the science side, the Daily Mail, with news (and video) about the AA’s new rocketmen, able to fly out to the hard-shoulder at high velocity in your time of need. Unfortunately this corker has come down off the site already.
The animals have been used by Virgin Media for over a year to help lay cables for its broadband service, the company has disclosed. The ferrets wear jackets fitted with a microchip which is able to analyse any breaks or damage in the underground network.
What the Telegraph’s story lacks ever so slightly in humour, it more than makes up for with this deftly mocked-up picture of a ferret on the job. Of laying cables, I mean.
Back to frowning at your desks until next year then folks.
The panel included: Martin Belam (information architect, the Guardian; blogger, Currybet; John O’Donovan (chief architect, BBC News Online); Dan Brickley (Friend of a Friend project; VU University, Amsterdam; SpyPixel Ltd; ex-W3C); Leigh Dodds (Talis).
“Linked Data is about using the web to connect related data that wasn’t previously linked, or using the web to lower the barriers to linking data currently linked using other methods.” (http://linkeddata.org)
I talked about how 2009 was, for me, a key year in data and journalism – largely because it has been a year of crisis in both publishing and government. The seminal point in all of this has been the MPs’ expenses story, which both demonstrated the power of data in journalism, and the need for transparency from government. For example: the government appointment of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the search for developers to suggest things to do with public data, and the imminent launch of Data.gov.uk around the same issue.
Even before then the New York Times and Guardian both launched APIs at the beginning of the year, MSN Local and the BBC have both been working with Wikipedia and we’ve seen the launch of a number of startups and mashups around data including Timetric, Verifiable, BeVocal, OpenlyLocal, MashTheState, the open source release of Everyblock, and Mapumental.
Q: What are the implications of paywalls for Linked Data?
The general view was that Linked Data – specifically standards like RDF [Resource Description Format] – would allow users and organisations to access information about content even if they couldn’t access the content itself. To give a concrete example, rather than linking to a ‘wall’ that simply requires payment, it would be clearer what the content beyond that wall related to (e.g. key people, organisations, author, etc.)
Leigh Dodds felt that using standards like RDF would allow organisations to more effectively package content in commercially attractive ways, e.g. ‘everything about this organisation’.
Q: What can bloggers do to tap into the potential of Linked Data?
This drew some blank responses, but Leigh Dodds was most forthright, arguing that the onus lay with developers to do things that would make it easier for bloggers to, for example, visualise data. He also pointed out that currently if someone does something with data it is not possible to track that back to the source and that better tools would allow, effectively, an equivalent of pingback for data included in charts (e.g. the person who created the data would know that it had been used, as could others).
Q: Given that the problem for publishing lies in advertising rather than content, how can Linked Data help solve that?
Dan Brickley suggested that OAuth technologies (where you use a single login identity for multiple sites that contains information about your social connections, rather than creating a new ‘identity’ for each) would allow users to specify more specifically how they experience content, for instance: ‘I only want to see article comments by users who are also my Facebook and Twitter friends.’
The same technology would allow for more personalised, and therefore more lucrative, advertising. John O’Donovan felt the same could be said about content itself – more accurate data about content would allow for more specific selling of advertising.
Martin Belam quoted James Cridland on radio: ‘[The different operators] agree on technology but compete on content’. The same was true of advertising but the advertising and news industries needed to be more active in defining common standards.
Leigh Dodds pointed out that semantic data was already being used by companies serving advertising.
I asked members of the audience who they felt were the heroes and villains of Linked Data in the news industry. The Guardian and BBC came out well – The Daily Mail were named as repeat offenders who would simply refer to ‘a study’ and not say which, nor link to it.
Martin Belam pointed out that the Guardian is increasingly asking itself ‘how will that look through an API?’ when producing content, representing a key shift in editorial thinking. If users of the platform are swallowing up significant bandwidth or driving significant traffic then that would probably warrant talking to them about more formal relationships (either customer-provider or partners).
A number of references were made to the problem of provenance – being able to identify where a statement came from. Dan Brickley specifically spoke of the problem with identifying the source of Twitter retweets.
Dan also felt that the problem of journalists not linking would be solved by technology. In conversation previously, he also talked of ‘subject-based linking’ and the impact of SKOS [Simple Knowledge Organisation System] and linked data style identifiers. He saw a problem in that, while new articles might link to older reports on the same issue, older reports were not updated with links to the new updates. Tagging individual articles was problematic in that you then had the equivalent of an overflowing inbox.
Finally, here’s a bit of video from the very last question addressed in the discussion (filmed with thanks by @countculture):
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has today brought out its revised figures for national newspaper circulation in the UK, reducing the headline circulations of titles including the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times in the light of an investigation into ‘bulk copies’ distributed by Dawson Media Direct, for the London Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph.
The Sunday Times was the only ‘quality’ Sunday title to post a year-on-year rise in sales (2.74 per cent). On average the ‘quality’ Sunday titles posted a 2.77 per cent year-on-year fall. The Independent on Sunday posted the biggest year-on-year drop – 19.98 per cent.
All the daily titles audited posted a year-on-year drop in sales, apart from The Star which increased its circulation by 20.12 per cent compared with July 2008.
The Sun recorded a tiny drop of 0.4 per cent year-on-year and although the Daily Mirror was down 7.16 per cent compared with last year’s figures, month-on-month the title’s sales rose by 0.73 per cent.
Guardian News and Media announced today that it will abandon the distribution of ‘bulks’.
GNM sold ‘bulk’ bundles of its papers to hotels and airlines for a nominal fee per copy to the businesses, but free to the readers. This sampling method was a way of tempting new readers towards the publications.
But bulk sales only contributed to a fraction of the Guardian and Observer’s overall sales figures compared to other newspaper groups, said a release from GNM.
“To a greater or lesser degree bulk sales are used by newspaper groups to prop up their ABC [Audit Bureau of Circulations] figure. Yet their credibility in the ad community is low and for those affected by the recent investigation into airline bulks that credibility has been undermined further,” Joe Clark, GNM director and general manager, newspapers, said in the release.
“We are abandoning this practice in order to present a clearer, more honest picture of our sales performance to advertisers and to reinforce the quality of our product to readers. The success of our subscription scheme has proved the value of rewarding loyal readers and prompted us to question the merit of subsidising a free copy for an occasional reader.
“In short dropping this traditional, and in our view, outmoded practice is a win-win move. We hope that others will follow our lead.”
“This so-called ‘sampling exercise’ was anything other than a way to ensure that, in a declining market, headline sales figures remained artificially high,” he wrote.
Over the past 10 years publishers have become increasingly aware that sampling had little effect on their sales.
As Greenslade reports: Trinity Mirror and Express Mirrors were the first to give up the practice, while News International never used bulks for its main titles, The Sun and News of the World, but did for The Times and The Sunday Times.
The Financial Times has also begun to lessen its use of bulks; whereas The Telegraph Media Group continues to use bulks to attract new readers, he adds. In addition The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday have increased their reliance on bulks.
Pulse, the leading publication for the UK medical profession, has learnt that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is formally investigating a Daily Mail story that claimed GPs are earning as much as £380,000 a year.
“A spokesman for the commission told Pulse it had received ‘seven or eight’ complaints from doctors regarding the accuracy of the Mail’s front-page story on Tuesday.
“The story, based on figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 22 PCTs, claimed to have ‘found one GP earning £380,000 a year and a number pocketing more than £300,000’ – although it admitted that ‘in some cases the figures include cash GPs have to pay out for staff salaries and rents’.”
The British Medical Association (BMA) said that General Practitioners Committe (GPC) chair, Dr Laurence Buckman, had written a formal letter of complaint to the Daily Mail editor, but had not yet complained to the PCC, Pulse reports.
A Daily Mail spokesperson defended its report, in response to complaints about accuracy.
However it was only 4th in terms of UK visitors. Figures from Compete.com, which tracks Americans’ internet use, suggest that, of the 4.7 million unique users the Mail added from May to June, 1.2 million were from the USA. American and other foreign visitors searching for Michael Jackson’s kids – the Mail tops google.com for a search on this – drove this overseas growth.
US traffic to UK newspaper sites
This is what happened to US traffic for the ‘big three’ UK newspaper websites from May to June, according to Compete.com’s figures:
This dramatic increase in traffic, compared to its rivals, from May to June helps explains how the Mail leapfrogged the Guardian and Telegraph.
Google.com was the main referrer to the Mail – responsible for 22.7 per cent of its traffic. More on this below. Next up was drudgereport.com [a large US news aggregation site], followed by Yahoo.com and Facebook.com.
What was behind this rise in US traffic?
So what led to this sudden increase for the Mail? Compete also shows you the main search terms that lead US visitors to sites.
Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Guardian
Guardian/the guardian: 2.6 per cent
Michael Jackson: 0.9 per cent
Swine flu symptoms: 0.6 per cent
Susan Boyle: 0.6 per cent
Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Telegraph
Michael Jackson: 2.5 per cent
Susan Boyle: 0.8 per cent
Swine flu symptoms: 0.7 per cent
Daily Telegraph: 0.6 per cent
Michael Jackson children: 0.5 per cent
Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Daily Mail
Daily Mail/Dailymail: 9.9 per cent
Michael Jackson (or Jackson’s) children: 2.9 per cent
Michael Jackson’s kids: 1.3 per cent
What does this tell us?
The Guardian’s top five search terms, as suggested by Compete.com, accounted for just 4.7 per cent of its search traffic. The Telegraph’s top five for 5.1 per cent.
But the Mail’s top 5 accounted for a massive 14.1 per cent – split between searches for its brand name and for Michael Jackson’s kids (and outside the top five there may have been many other MJ-related terms).
Its search traffic in June is heavily skewed to these two search terms in the USA – and elsewhere in the world, I think it’s reasonable to presume.
But I do know that interest in Michael Jackson’s kids is going to die down. This graph shows how there was a huge and sudden surge in searches for his children and kids after he died. The graph shows just two search terms – there are likely to be many others, and so a significant proportion of the Mail’s overseas traffic increase is down to search terms related to Jackson’s offspring.
This increase in searches translates into traffic for the Mail because it is currently TOP for a search on ‘Michael Jackson children’ at google.com and 3rd for kids (it’s also top in Google India for a search on his children, and India is the next most common source of traffic to the Mail after the UK and USA).
So all this data suggests that the Mail’s top spot in June’s ABCes is built on US and other worldwide search traffic around Jackson’s children – the massive peak in late June and again around his funeral in early July.
Once people stop searching for these terms, this traffic will disappear. The Mail may still top July’s ABCes on the back of this traffic – but it’s hard to believe it will still be top in August.
You can, of course, pick holes in this argument.
The three MJ’s kids search terms account for 4.2 per cent of Google traffic, which accounts for 22.7 per cent of 5.2 million visitors – so about 50,000 users.
But I think it’s reasonable to assume that there are more search terms outside the top five; there are other search engines; and that the other sources of traffic, such as people sharing links on Facebook and news aggregators, will also partially be about Jackson’s children.
Plus this is the only publicly available data that I’m aware of, and this is the story it seems to be telling.