The Express Fiddles While The Mail Earns

It may have passed you by but the Daily Express is redesigning its homepage. There’s an open beta for you to peruse and pass judgement on. So far the Twitterati seems unimpressed*, often for good reason.

And while the Express continues to fiddle with its weather widget, horizontal navs and news tabs, its mid-market stablemate the Daily Mail gets on with the job in hand – driving traffic.

And in at least two areas the Mail excels. A fan or otherwise, you should at least concede that:

1. It has the most grabby picture teasers of any UK newspaper site, doubtless improving its stickiness and likely encouraging repeat visits. Low rent, high impact.

2. It is the most unapologetic practitioner of the link-bait headline – often four or five decks deep, always bursting with proper nouns.

You will all have your favourites, but I was rather taken by this seven-liner from yesterday’s sports section:

Daily_Mail_Headline_16_Aug_2009One headline, 35 words, four Premier League clubs, three managers and one player. The URL is even more brazen, moving the valueless ‘What the pages say’ to the end and limiting the generic, connector words:–What-pages-say-Sunday-August-16.html

Laughable it may be but you can bet it’s effective.

Despite some recent doubts about the financial value of the link economy, this kind of approach is a reflection that search engines, aggregators and other assorted referrers make or break your site. Not the look and feel of your homepage.

Sure your homepage matters – but mostly for those inside the organisation (internal stakeholders, if you must).

Given most outsiders don’t come through the site’s front door – they are taken straight inside by the army of referrers – isn’t it time to stop obsessing about a single page?

(*UPDATE: Malcolm Coles offers this alternative Daily Express wireframe…)

Daily Mail Ends Moderation. Will Anybody Notice?


One Of The Best Photo Captions Ever

The Sydney Morning Herald takes a sober and considered approach in the wake of the French burqini ban:


Is This The Best Use of Post-It Notes Ever?
Fox News Anchor To Rupert Murdoch: ‘Mr Chairman Sir, Why Are You So Great?’

Daily Mail Ends Moderation. Will Anybody Notice?

According to this week’s New Media Age, the Daily Mail is following in the footsteps of the Daily Express and Daily Star and ending its policy of moderating reader comments that accompany all articles that appear on its website.

The rationale? James Bromley, MD of Mail Online, tells the industry paper:

“We have hundreds of thousands of comments every month. Because of the volume, not all were going up. We want to give people their chance to respond and for it to appear immediately. This improves the user experience.”

Web publishers have a few options when it comes to monitoring comments from the great unwashed. They can pre-moderate, post-moderate, use filtering software to block inappropriate language – or a combination of all three.

The other alternative, the Mail Online alternative, is only to deal with comments flagged up by the community or by those who believe they have been defamed or libelled.

There is much debate about the legal benefits of all these options – and the advocates of the Mail route say that by leaving comments untouched there is no danger that it has given implicit (or indeed explicit) approval to something that may turn out to be legally contentious.

Regardless of these arguments, I’m not sure the Daily Mail’s move will make much difference to the general tenor of what passes for debate on its electronic pages. Except perhaps, to increase the volume and speed of the mud-slinging.

To take one example – the 114 comments that followed the publication in March of an interview with Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who claims he was tortured with the tacit approval of the UK authorities.

It was an exhaustive, responsible and sympathetic piece of journalism. As with its campaign against the alleged killers of Stephen Lawrence, the Daily Mail had confounded conventional wisdom by bidding for and winning the first newspaper interview with Mohamed post-release.

With all that in mind, here are just a selection of the comments appended to the piece:

Ship him back to Ethiopia and stop using my taxes to house and feed him!

This man is NOT BRITISH, illegally entered the country, went to Pakistan (for help in beatin g his drug habit – yeah, right!) so, to be blunt – WHO CARES.

You put yourself in the Terrorist arena mate so you take the consequences of your action.

Er…. go away sunshine.

These, by the way, were among highest rated contributions to the “debate” as ranked by fellow users.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that any of these should have been deleted. But when the moderators pack up and leave, will anybody notice they’ve gone?

A Year In The Life Of Newspapers

Two weeks of news-, laptop- and (thanks to my own incompetence) mobile-free living, I return with too many emails to contemplate and far too many items in my RSS reader to countenance.

But somehow this found its way into my consciousness. Made by my The Media Blog colleague Will Sturgeon, it charts the decline of newspaper circulation over a 12 month period – in a minute (well one minute, three second) video.

The Independent Adds Video. Why?

We know the web blurs traditional media boundaries – broadcasters do text, radio does pictures, newspapers do video.

But sometimes those doing the doing forget to ask why?

Take the Independent’s tie-up with the Press Association. The deal provides the paper with over 100 90-second clips a week, each focusing on a single news item.

Jimmy Leach, editorial director for digital at The Independent, describes the deal thus:

“The Press Association’s expertise in providing quality news video quickly and professionally will give our video service some real immediacy and depth.”

No doubt PA makes high quality video and, yes, the deal may provide real immediacy on occasion. But depth? In 90 seconds of coverage? I’m not convinced.

If a newspaper is going to do video (or audio for that matter) it should:

  1. add value
  2. reflect its personality / agenda

I’m not sure the PA tie-up provides the Indy with either.

Why would those reading the text of a story be inclined to click the play button? Only if there’s a some killer footage in the piece (Lord Mandelson getting gunged, protesters on the streets of Tehran, Obama swatting a fly to name three random water cooler events).

In which case, why not just show that? 

The truth is most stories aren’t picture-led – producers scrabbling around for library shots to illustrate the latest interest rate decision or select committee report can vouch for that.

So in the majority of cases the paper is asking readers of a 500-word article to click and watch 90 seconds of video consisting of a 270-word script, at most, and some ‘wallpaper’ images.

If you want to watch high quality news analysis on video there are other sources including, dare I say it, from my former employer. And if you want water cooler there’s YouTube.

There’s definitely a gap for providing Indy-style reporting in video form. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

(Kind of) related:
Five Ways News Organisations Should Use Twitter
 – The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing
 – Scarcity, Abundance And The Misapprehension Of Online Advertising