Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Student rags, or not?

As students started acting up this afternoon, I thought I'd do a quick run round the news sites, to see what everyone was making of the whole thing...

Anyway, here's the summary!

The Times:



Daily Mail:


Evening Standard:


Interesting? Hardly... Mind you, the good old Express had nothing. Nothing at all. Can't say they don't know their audience, as there has been absolutely no mention of either Princess Diana or Madeleine McCann at the protests so far...

Carried out at around 2pm on November 24, 2010.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mail order from the Daily Mail website?

Now, the Daily Mail website is something I've written about before.

Namely, HERE and HERE.

However, a recent article from The Guardian made me revisit it today.

Basically, as we already knew, the site has become quite a big player as far as 'news' sites go. I use the word news in inverted commas because, quite frankly, the lack of news on the site is my major gripe - and possibly the obvious reason behind the site's success.

While you do get some stories, you don't really get news, as such, in any prominent position, or in other words, anywhere that may attract a real news reader.

That is, of course, unless you count anything mentioning I'm a Celebrity, X Factor, chavvy footballers or benefit cheats as high-ranking on the news agenda, which sadly, I don't.

So I thought I'd just write this as an adendum to my previous post if you like, to say that the Mail website is the X Factor of news sites.

Yes, it appeals to the masses, and you can't knock it for what it does, it does well.

But when you look at it for any actual value, it's dog shit.

Sadly, this is something we're now seeing mirrored across the DMGT group's regional newspaper arm, Northcliffe.

ThisIs sites across the land now bear a little section on the bottom of their front pages titled 'SHOWBIZ'.

Basically, this is simply an excuse to post headlines that will attract the chav Googler to the site.

But while it may bump numbers for the site - the below is from but it is everywhere - it has absolutely nothing to do with that area.

Just as the Daily Mail website has absolutely nothing to do with news.

I compare this bandwagon thinking to what the likes of Northcliffe are doing to our newspapers.

They have something that works (name me a site doing ONLY solid, regularly-updated local news that is falling in visitor numbers), yet far from being happy with that, they need to have more, more, more, and some complete fuckwit has told them Google looks in headlines and picture captions for searched terms and the even bigger dipshit who actually makes decisions has jumped on the bandwagon.

As with their newspapers, they'll soon release (too late, I would assume) that this will only work in certain circumstances and the gains will be limited.

Just as cutting staff back continually will when the papers are folded, despite still making a healthy profit.

Still, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, especially when the old tricks brought in 30% profits for them knowing fuck all...

Here's the link to the previous Daily Mail website article again if you missed it the first time!

And don't forget, follow me on Twitter and you'll get a mention every now and again!

@haplesshack is my address. You can debate my 'the Daily Mail website is dog shit' verdict on there right now if you like...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Twitter heroes

As promised, here is a list of the heroic Tweeters (apparently that's correct jargon) who are following me - you should follow them too as clearly they are very nice*!


* I cannot make any guarantees on the content these people tweet, so if they are simply trying to sell dodgy laptops or have money to give you from African diamond deals, it;s not my fault!

Conference bullshit. As usual.

Oh, how I love conferences where top bods at regional, national, shit, good, middling newspapers get to shout their opinions from a stage.

The best thing about them is that many of them serve only to show what a complete bunch of fools those overseeing our industry are.

I realise I am turning in to a complete whinger these days, but let's be honest, the fodder is too obvious to overlook.

Case in point: Society of Editors conference in Glasgow.

Editors and execs from up and down the country have thrown expenses caution to the wind (leaving behind reporters whose claims are thrown out if they submit them a bit late) for a few nights in a plush hotel to catch up with old mates over far too much food and drink.

Oh, and they might talk about newspapers a bit too.

The subject the other day was, as it inevitably is for at least one session at these things, the interweb.

And we saw the full scale of the problem encapsulated in one opinion, voiced by the revered editor of the Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Derek Tucker.

Revered, from what I can gather, for running a paper that managed to lose 3.4% of circulation in the January ABCs.

Right, anyway, his quotes included this glorious nugget...

"We have not sold our souls on creating an all-singing, all-dancing website. We have always adopted a stricter attitude to the industry norm."


It was also reported that not all Press & Journal stories are uploaded to the web and that none, repeat NONE, were uploaded before they appeared in the paper.

I'm sure countless editors and MDs up and down the land were gasping at this revelation.

"Derek Tucker doesn't upload everything? And nothing before it's been in the paper? Why, we must adopt this revolutionary process immediately!"

What a fool.

I don't care how revered he is, or by how much less his circulation has fallen than anyone else, he is talking utter tosh.

How can he quantify, for example, the amount of newspaper sales he may have gained by promoting things from the internet? Or by breaking news on the internet, even if it is in a scaled-down story or feature, flagging content in the printed product?

Content is free Derek, end of.

As an internet sceptic myself, I used to follow your way of thinking, but I soon came round when I witnessed the positive effects the internet can have on stories later published, be it comments from online, submitted pictures, whatever, it made the papers better.

You may have so far escaped this new-fangled interweb rubbish and flaunted a meagre 3.4% loss in front of some hapless MD, but your time is over.

Needless to say, he is stepping down in the new year after 18 years in the chair.

Let's just hope that ill-informed comments such as these do not have a lasting effect on the industry he clearly loves.

Because if his policy is continued, newspapers - and their websites - will be dead in 30 years. Completely.

And while that may be fine for those retiring in January, what about the rest of us?

Twitter update to follow - and mentions for my eight followers as promised!

Follow me now for a mention: @haplesshack

I'm also going to have a look at the Daily Mail's website today in light of a very interesting article...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sod local, minor celebrities are the way forward...

Farcical, often-offensive comedy.

Yes, I am talking about regional newspaper bosses and their recent running of the industry we all care so much about.

Yet decisions made by those who have some actual power took perhaps the most surreal turn of all this week, with the announcement of 'comic' Jim Davidson taking on a column in Torquay's Herald Express.

While the jokes make themselves, obviously, a decision such as this really does raise serious questions about what the hell we are all doing here.

In an industry where we are constantly cutting back on local columnists, loved by many readers, to - as we are told - satisfy the desire for "higher story counts"*, what does it say to our faithful when we will happily give over God knows how much space to what many regard as an offensive comedian with no real link to the area**?

The mind boggles.

I'm sure the Herald Express would argue the publicity they have gained will bump up circulation a bit in the first few weeks, but really, is it worth isolating such a large faction of readers for a quick gain?

Again, the questions are so appropriate for decisions taken within the industry as a whole it's untrue.

The way this was announced is also not great, from the perspective of someone reading these papers.

The piece on the Herald Express website informs us that Davidson will be "jotting down his words of wisdom" in the column.

One can only marvel at what such words of wisdom may be, from a man who penned such beauties as this, a quote attributed to Davidson when asked of the reasons behind his move to Dubai when a Labour Government was elected:

"I may as well go to Dubai and be an ethnic minority there than wait five years till I become one here," he said.


Well, I suppose one age-old newspaper adage that will remain true is that the readership will be the best judge of what works in the paper.

And what doesn't.

* regardless of quality.
** A "regular visitor and former seasonal resident", according to the Herald Express piece, which makes me a qualified columnist for Majorca quite frankly.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

When splashes go bad...

We've all been there.

You're running the newsdesk, an hour before deadline, and the splash falls through.

You've sold it to the editor, who has been touting it around his editor chums (I presume they call each other 'chums'? I think they should), telling them the next day's paper will sweep the board at next year's awards dos.

Then, almost in slow motion, you notice the reporter writing it is speaking to you.

The words come out slowly, deeply... And it's gone.

You compose yourself, try not to shout at them too loudly for waiting a week before actually doing any work on the story, then pop and see the editor.

This goes well, as you assure him you have an equally brilliant story as a back up, which of course, you don't.

A quick check with the court reporters proves fruitless, your 'banker' reporter has nothing, even the geeky bloke in the corner who only does FoI stories draws a blank.

Okay, compose yourself, there's a planning agenda on the desk. Yes, a planning agenda! Good old-fashioned reporting.

Yes, there has to be something in the planning agenda for God's sake...

And there is. Sort of.

Oh dear.

Imagine the editor's face when you go to him with this? You've oversold it, you know that, but you can make it work, you can...

But sometimes, you just can't.

The above story is a woeful tale. Planning application for a nursery. That's it. No hidden agenda. It's not a nursery for criminally-insane toddlers or anything like that.

No, it's just a nursery.

Quite how it has turned in to a honey trap for paedophiles is never actually explained, until mum-of-two Natalie Rooney steps in to the fray...

“We think there will be traffic problems because of all the parents dropping off and picking up their children.

“We think there will be noise problems because the children will be playing outdoors. We are also worried that paedophiles will be attracted to the area to be close to the nursery.”

Okay... She is worried that paedophiles will move in to the area to be close to the nursery.


Not only should the reporter have dismissed this immediately, actually, reporter Michael Purton should have 'mmm'-ed and 'aahhh'-ed in an agreeable tone before putting down the phone and pissing himself, but when the desk got this copy, they should have sorted it.

And the subs, surely the subs would not let such a thing through?

Wrong again.

All round, this is really not a ringing endorsement of the quality of reporting at News Shopper.

It;s lazy, it's desperate, and while I don't doubt it's probably the most-read edition for many years, it is NOT the way editors should be tempting in readers.

Sensationalism of the worst kind, done badly (what is going on with that headline?), and a copy of this should be held up at every single meeting to discuss why newspapers are a. hated and b. why sales are falling through the floor.

Do follow me on Twitter - I do get on there occasionally, so I will reply to any direct tweets or whatever it is you do on there! @haplesshack

Still on a massive seven followers - who I am eternally grateful too and will give a shout out to in the next blog! Join them and you'll get one too!

Strike me down, but they need organising...

I find the recent upsurge of strikes across Newsquest centres very sad.

Not simply because of the moves which have made them inevitable - ever-falling staffing, sub hubs, pension changes, senior executives behaving like banking fat cats - but also because of the seemingly random way in which they are organised.

Speaking to colleagues on Newsquest papers, it seems there is no coherent thinking by that age-old bastion of a union, the NUJ.

I would expect the NUJ, as the NUS did yesterday in London, to organise something on a slightly larger scale than a handful of people outside a newspaper office on an industrial estate.

This is what happens to a union when it simply doesn't do enough.

After many years of membership, I eventually stopped my direct debit, as the cost of the union seemed to constantly increase in direct proportion to the loss of representation I actually felt.

I'm not alone.

So, say what you like about the NUS action on Wednesday, the NUJ can only dream of such a turnout.

And that, I'm afraid, is largely their own fault.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Here we go again on our own...

Well, well, well, just when we thought it was safe to come out from under the desk (where we all hide from time to time in the hope of avoiding the MD's eyes when he's playing ennie-meenie-minie-mo to select the next round of redundencies) it appears Northcliffe have once again opened that particular can of 'further efficiencies' worms...

Yep, another 50-plus subbing jobs are set to go across the Northcliffe stable in a fresh bid to save (and make) even more money.

While many business gurus will say that these things will happen in "times of economic downturns" and other such bollocks, the previous set of redundancies and creation of subbing 'hubs' seems also to have been abandoned, suggesting at best shortsightedness, at worst, a complete balls up of a business plan.

Why, all of a sudden, would a decision taken - at great expense and moral-sapping staff costs - less than 12 months ago, suddenly be a bad idea?

I just don't understand it.

And nor, it appears, does anyone at Northcliffe.

Just read that information again...

"The Plymouth hub is set to lose all responsibility for production of the Plymouth Herald, Torquay Herald Express, Exeter Express and Echo and Mid-Devon Gazette, all of which may move to Bristol."

So, that makes sense, they're moving Plymouth away from Plymouth and up to Bristol, which will, obviously, potentially see the need to lose a few subs from Plymouth.


"Around 20 of the job losses are likely to occur at the Bristol hub, with responsibility for producing the Western Daily Press and Western Morning News moving to Plymouth."

Right, so the production of these newspapers are swapping 'hubs', yet that means staff can be lost?

How? This is not explained. Why would it not make sense to just leave them where they are and cut staff, rather than, as the evidence above indicates to me, swap some duties around and say this means you need less people?

If you need less people to sub the Herald, then come out and say it.

And of you need less people to sub the Western Daily Press etc, then again, say so.

You would think it could be down to buildings or something, not having enough room for all of the over-proportioned subs or something, but anyone who has ever seen either the Plymouth or the Bristol buildings knows that's a feeble argument at best.

Instead, they've played newspaper musical chairs and also added in to the mix the possibility of reporters writing their own headlines and typing up copy directly in to template pages.

This is a whole other argument, but does also serve to highlight how ridiculous this plan is.

Okay, so the thinking is that we need less subs because reporters are entering their copy directly in to a page.

Fine, disregarding the enforced absence of any kind of creativity in page layout, but who is checking that copy?

The reporter? The news desk?

In theory, we all know two people checking the copy should work, but it doesn't.

That's what copy subs are there for. If they weren't needed at all, they would have been cut before, believe me.

No, what all of these things indicate is not that the business is necessarily struggling (although I'm sure all are experiencing a drop in profits), but rather that the newspaper groups have finally given up pretending that they care about the quality of their offerings any longer.

Perhaps, initially, when sales figures started to drop, they did think quality was important and that producing a good paper would bring back readers (you know, they only made half of us redundant at first!).

But it hasn't, and this seems a clear example of a publisher saying 'bollocks to it, whatever we do, noone's buying it, so let's put out any old shit'.

And what hope is there for the reporters and subs after this?

None, surely.

No, what you need to invest in now is lots of middle-managers with ipads who can walk around and sell digital something-or-others.

While it gives no comfort to anyone facing the prospect of yet another round of redundancies, the same old result will come.

Those who should go; won't.

Does anyone else feel like giving up and letting the industry wallow in the shit it has so eagerly created for itself?

Oh, as usual, here's a plug for Twitter! @haplesshack - do log on there and let me know what you think of all these changes Northcliffe staff - and those beyond!