Written by Media

Newspapers Need To Help Themselves

I do something that’s becoming increasingly unusual in the 21st century.
I buy a daily newspaper.
Specifically, I have subscription vouchers for The Guardian and Observer. But I think it’s fair to say that everyone realises the days of printed daily papers are numbered. I don’t think it’ll happen that soon. It might be ten years, or it might be twenty. But we will move to a digital version of some description.
Personally, I love the printed word. Presenting me with an editorialised version of the news, rather than the news that I just choose to read online, means that I become a much more rounded person. It’s good for me.
So that’s why it annoys me when quality newspapers do stupid things that can only speed up the death of the printed word.
Specifically, two things really annoyed me when I picked up a paper at the newsagent today.
One of the few other qualities, The Sunday Telegraph, had wrapped itself in an ad for a cosmetics company. There was a masthead showing, but to read even the day’s headline, you had to get past an ad. Now I realise that once upon a time, all newspapers carried classified advertising on the front page. But we’re beyond that now. And if I’m paying for a newspaper, wrapping it in an advert is cheapening.
Certainly, free newspapers like Metro or the London Evening Standard, regularly have such wraps around them. But they’re “free”. The tacit understanding of anyone who picks up such a newspaper is that the ads fund it. But a paper like The Sunday Telegraph costs £2, and for that, I do expect a visible headline.
The Telegraph group has played before with “tracing paper” style wraps. However, they left the front page visible. This advert did not.
Indeed, aside from the copious amount of cash the Telegraph Group was able to charge, the only reason I can think that they did it is because so many of their readers take the paper via delivery or subscription, that incidental sales from people glancing at covers in newsagents make no difference.
The other thing that annoyed me today was The Observers blurb strapline. It read “Unhappy With Our Bodies. Why More And More Women Hate The Way They Look. A Major [My emphasis] Investigation By Eva Wiseman.”
That’s a bold statement. A “major investigation”? To my mind, major investigations in newspapers are things like Nick Davies ongoing investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World, or going back in time, The Sunday Times’ Insight team investigation into thalidomide.
The 4,000 word article has depth, certainly. One could easily call it a “special report.” But using the expression “major investigation” diminishes those investigations that newspaper do still carry out. Indeed such work is going to become more and more important to newspapers since it’s a point of difference; something that you can’t get elsewhere on the internet.
Newspaper need to be careful. I realise that budgets are tight (Especially so at The Observer where sometimes the articles are laughable. Someone notices that there’s a Johnny Depp “western” themed film coming out as well as a Quentin Tarantino film, and there’s an article somehow linking them), but overselling what you’re offering will not help.