Daily Telegraph Meets Fail Whale In Case Of The Phantom Twittercrat

Twitter_Fail_WhaleIt was one of the more entertaining tit-for-tats of the week. The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Express all ran stories about the government preparing to appoint a £120k-a-year ‘Twittercrat’ to teach it how to use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Bebo.

Nice story, except it wasn’t true.

In a rebuttal far better written than the original job ad that sparked the row, the Cabinet Office set out five key inaccuracies in the papers’ reporting (“The job title is wrong. Details of the job description are wrong.” etc).

Could the Cabinet Office use those very social media tools to get its message out?

For more read my latest Journalism.co.uk column: A telling tale of the Twittercrat who wasn’t

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:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-1206875/Manchester-City-boss-Mark-Hughes-war-Evertons-David-Moyes-Joleon-Lescott-bid-Portsmouth-tap-storm-Gianfranco-Zola-threatens-quit-West-Ham–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…)

Related:
Daily Mail Ends Moderation. Will Anybody Notice?