I’ve been looking at the UK newspaper industry over my cup of tea this morning and it is quite an interesting read.
Of course, the paper versions of the newspapers are pretty much on their knees now, more especially the broadsheets, whose daily newspaper market share is pathetic. It has even been called, by someone I know under the aegis of Viscount R, vanity publishing.
It is, I think, more than this. The dailies operate partly as the shop window for the online businesses which are pretty much rampant, as compared to their old-fashioned country cousins. For example, the Guardian which struggles to shift just under 300,000 copies, has recorded 37 million unique user hits on its website last December; a trend that is followed by the other daily organs’ sites. It is worth noting though, that the more hard copies you shift, the less hits on your site: The Sun’s circulation is a little shy of the 3 million mark, but in hits on its website, in the same month as the Guardian’s 37 million, it only received 8 million.
So globally, it would be fair to argue, the Guardian is doing better than the Sun? Well that’s a relief maybe…
Whilst less and less of us buy or read a paper, more and more of us get our news from the web. But what is that news? Are we getting what we ask for? The Guardian attributed some of their big hit figures to their coverage at the end of last year of a climate conference – so people are turning to the virtual page that interests them.
Yet, the press media, still shapes the news, in a way one could consider disproportionate if you consider the fact that most of us (more than 80%) don’t read them. I loved the recent political limbo period whilst the political parties sorted out the future government. There we had a distilled moment, where the printed press and its televisual and online brethren had to wait on the real life power players of the piece. Those hacks and their owners (let us not forget the inflated egos of the press barons for one minute in all this) had to wait. And wait. And to me that was quite perfect: Alistair Campbell and Adam Wotnot from Sky reduced to a near scuffle such did their impotence in really important matters frustrate them.
The printed press has a place in our lives, even if it is a shop window for their websites, but why should we expect their news to be any more wholesome than Nestle? They are businesses the same. For me, the key difference is the newspapers’ owners have a power play to make for and against other protagonists. Men who like to needle others and remind them of their place. Straightforward investigation and exposure “in the public interest” is in very short supply. We are treated to exposes and lowdown dirt that is neither, but, in the case of the tabloids boosts circulation and in the instance of the broadsheet serves their reputations.
Reading the news at breakfast has always given you grubby hands and some things never change.