Archive for the 'Media' Category


Why categorising people by which papers they read might not be as relevant any more

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

UK Press Gazette

What we think of as newspapers have become news brands

YouGov makes a big deal in its weightings on which newspaper those on its polling panel say they read. This was introduced by the firm when it started polling in 2001 and has remained a key part since even though there has been a collapse in the number of printed copies of papers being sold each day.

We are still consuming papers but in a very different way and now, in ad speak, the Mail, Mirror etc are now called “news brands” not “newspapers”. Looking at the table above you can see why.

Until I saw these latest figures from the National Readership Survey I’d always rated the Sun as the top-selling, and therefore most influential, UK newspaper with the Indy, even combined with its low price “I” partner, right at the bottom.

Now, thanks to the massive expansion in smartphone usage, the readerships in March show that the Indy is larger than the Sun. The scale of the numbers in the right hand column of the above table show a change in reading habits that is amazing.

We all sort of knew that the internet was changing how we consume newspapers but it is the widespread use of smartphones with their easy to use newspaper apps that have produced the really big shift.

Clearly the mobile, PC, and print readerships have a large degree of overlap which is why the figures in three right hand columns do not add up to the left hand one.

One thing that is marked is how the papers with paywalls, the Sun in particular, are now well down the overall tables because of their much reduced mobile figures.

Mike Smithson


Maybe Ed Miliband has judged that the Tory press isn’t the force that it was

Monday, February 9th, 2015

And internet paywalls mean some papers have even less influence

In yesterday’s Indy on Sunday (circulation down from 153,975 in January 2010 to 97,646 last month) John Rentoul was questioning the wisdom of the Miliband brother that he didn’t support for the LAB leadership in 2010 apparently taking on the “Tory press”

    Rentoul noted that Ed is currently on the end of some awful coverage which, no doubt, will intensify in the next three months. He’s correct about that but does it matter?

    Has the national press simply lost its political potency?

Everybody’s aware that, as can be seen in the table above, sales have dropped sharply almost right across the board. The Sun, the big daddy of them all when it comes to perceived political influence, has seen a sales slump that has just taken it below the 2 million. Compare that with the 3 million it was selling at the last election and even higher circulations of general elections gone by. Other papers have experienced similar fall-offs.

I don’t often take rush hours trains into London these days but when I do the only printed papers that fellow passengers appear to be reading is the freebie Metro with the majority paying most attention to their smart-phones or tablets.

Ah, I hear you say, what about the power of the internet? Is not there where the national press is still a force? Yes and no. The Daily Mail is, I believe, the biggest newspaper website in the world while the Guardian gets a mass of traffic. They are both free. Several other papers – the FT, the Telegraph, The Times and The Sun – are now behind paywalls and only reach the “converted” – those ready to sign up for monthly subscriptions.

I’ve seen it during the 11 years that I’ve run PB. In the early days my starting point before writing each morning’s post was to scan the websites of the national papers. No more. If there’s something significant it will be linked to by one of those I follow on Twitter or it will be posted on a PB discussion thread.

Maybe the Miliband calculation about the national press is a correct one.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


If the LDs experience is anything to go by then major party status for UKIP is bad news for the blues

Friday, January 9th, 2015

The chances of the purples fading must now be lower

One of the features of general elections in recent times is that the Lib Dems always seem to get a boost during the campaign. Thus a 4-5% increase in their final share at the election compared with pre-formal campaign polls has almost been the norm.

What has driven this is the extra attention they get from the broadcast media in the formal campaign period – something that TV and Radio stations are broadly required to give them. This is in sharp contrast to non-elections times when the third party traditionally has struggled to secure the attention of the media.

UKIP’s slight dip in some polls in recent weeks is probably down to the fact that it has found it harder to make the news in the way it was doing after the Euros in May and following the high-profile defections and subsequent by-election victories from August to November. Now Farage and Carswell can look forward to getting almost guaranteed levels of coverage from the start of April.

So it must be possible that polling levels in the mid-teens might continue until May 7th with the consequential impact on the two big parties particularly the the Tories.

But the general election is about winning seats not building up national vote shares and UKIP needs to ensure that it maintains its focus on its key targets.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


A key factor at GE2015: Will UKIP be deemed a “major party”?

Monday, September 8th, 2014


Corporeal looks at the BBC’s Clacton decision

One of the unresolved questions surrounding the next general election is how the media will treat UKIP, will they be pushed into the background as coverage hones in on the Lib Dems, (and especially) Labour, and the Conservatives or will they get brought into the mainstream debate and get a share of the precious oxygen of publicity. Most interesting, and probably most symbolic of all is whether they will get a look in (or how much of one) at the leader debates.

I’ve written before in a mix of fascinating and tedious detail about the rules governing the television coverage of political parties, and especially the criteria that cover them (and I’d semi-humbly suggest it’s worth a re-read, at least so you know where the goalposts are, or at least were). The central point is which parties get ‘major party’ status. Parties within this group (and it’s a flexible one that varies between elections and location, in recent years UKIP being a major party only in the Euros and the Nationalists gaining major status in their respective homelands) are guaranteed broadly similar levels of coverage during the election campaign.

This (as fans of reading comprehension may have guessed) doesn’t mean identical levels (the Lib Dems have recently had lower level of election broadcasts etc) but generally guarantees at least a seat at the table, or in terms of the debates (which draw slightly more interest than relative number of election broadcasts) a podium on the stage. It is a possibility that the debates will go into a more complex format with varying participants, but it’s hard to imagine them taking place without all the leaders of the major parties being present for at least a significant part of the debates.

As an update to that, we have the BBC’s editorial guidelines for Clacton out, the highlight (from a party perspective) of which was:

“The available evidence of electoral support in the constituency, together with other relevant factors outlined in the guidelines, indicates that: candidates representing the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP can expect to receive similar levels of coverage. Other parties who stood in Clacton in 2010, or who have received support in subsequent elections (and who announce candidates) should receive some proportionate coverage.

Obviously Clacton is a special case in terms of a defecting MP for Carswell, but it’s certainly a positive sign in their hopes for better coverage and ultimately being a part of the TV debates (would it be Carswell or Farage showing up), particularly if they win as favourites. Beyond the debates a more consistent presence in the day to day broadcast media campaign coverage would be a significant benefit.

The biggest winners in that advice may actually be the Liberal Democrats. Given that they scored 12.9% at the 2010 General Election in Clacton (and been in low single figures in constituency polls published so far), that they’ve retained major party status for media coverage wasn’t a certainty and is a positive sign for the future since it strongly point towards them also keeping it for next year’s General Election campaign. That might be more important to them than the final result in Clacton.



So far, at least, the intense Daily Mail campaign against Harriet Harman is not being reflected in the daily YouGov figures

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

That is not to say that it won’t

Today’s YouGov poll for the Sun sees LAB back at 39% the share at which it has been getting for months as the YouGov weekly average trend chart above shows.

One of the dangers with all polling analysis is to confuse correlation with causation. Clearly many factors are at play all the time.

There is also a view that I share that it can take time for big external events to show up in the polling so it might be that if the Harman issues are indeed having an impact it will take a little bit longer to show.

Until now, of course, the coverage has largely been in the Daily Mail itself. That has changed with the moves yesterday and the story is being covered more widely elsewhere in the media.

We know from Ipsos-MORI that Labour voters only make up a realively small share of the Daily Mail’s audience. See this chart of 2010 voting.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Do the media ‘get it’ yet?

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Press, public and politicians – who needs defending from whom

It was no doubt a coincidence that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were in court in relation to the charges against them over the phone hacking scandal on the same day that newspaper and magazine publishers were also in court seeking to prevent the granting of a Royal Charter on press regulation.  Nonetheless, the former made a somewhat ironic backdrop to the latter.

Not that it’s just the tabloids.  The Guardian caught an almighty dose of self-importance when one of their writers’ partner was detained at an airport over the summer, when they essentially claimed that journalistic material was somehow a separate and higher class of property, equivalent to the contents of a diplomatic bag, even when it’s suspected of being stolen or a threat to national security, or both.

Similarly, the instinctive reaction of the BBC was to rail against ‘political pressure’ when questions were raised this week about its governance, even as the scandal over historic sexual abuse allegations against current or former BBC staff rumbles on.  Many of these allegations remain sub judice and we must maintain the principle of innocent unless proven guilty.  It would just be nice if that principle were applied by the media to people they find interesting, in spirit as well as letter; in inference as well as in fact.

Which brings us back to the question of regulation.  Leaving individuals aside, if there’s a common thread running through these various scandals, it’s the industrial sense of entitlement and impunity; one justified by the self-declared mission to hold the rich, famous and powerful to account.

Not that this is anything new.  I was recently reading a book written by a long-forgotten journalist about his experiences reporting the happenings at the League of Nations during the twenties and thirties.  He pronounces that “of the three orders which comprise our new World State in embryo [by which he means The League – not the best of analyses given that the book was published in 1937] – the statesmen who represent the governments of the world; the secretariat which represents the first international civil service, and the journalists who create and reflect world opinion – it is the journalists and not the ministers who are the real representatives of the peoples.”

That deeply corrosive and undemocratic mind-set persists and has led to the logical next step: that if the media represent the people, then it is they who must hold governments and politicians to account.  It is why the media struggles with the legitimacy of regulation as a concept, never mind in any practical application.  Of course, the political class aren’t immune from mutually covering up would-be scandals of their own and the press does have an invaluable role to play in investigating, campaigning and reporting – when done responsibly – and it needs to be free to do so.

Even so, the idea that in a democratic system it is the media and not opposition parties, backbenchers and ultimately the public who hold a government to account has to be challenged, not just because it’s false but because the belief that it’s true lies behind the sense of justification in the media’s more squalid actions, even when they have nothing to do with politics.  It’s a license: because we hold politicians to account they can’t regulate us because that would strike against the public interest we perform; because no regulator’s said we can’t act in a certain way, we can.

As with all the best constitutional settlements, the key is not in the theory but in the practice – and that’s guaranteed not by rules but by self-restraint.  The best indicator this week that many in the media still don’t get that was the court challenge against the Charter.  The irony is that had they understood that, the Charter and regulator wouldn’t be needed in the first place.

David Herdson


Where the Daily Mail vote has gone since 1992

Friday, October 4th, 2013


Why politicians of all colours will have less to fear from the press at GE2015

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Remember how the Sun’s decision to drop LAB was the big news when party was last in Brighton

Since then the circulation of almost all papers has dropped sharply

The online presence is being reduced by paywalls