"We have tried everything we could but sadly we just haven't reached the sales figures we needed to make it work financially," she wrote.
The fact Trinity Mirror’s gamble in launching a print newspaper in 2016 has't paid off won't come as a surprise to many people. But the plug being pulled so quickly, after just 50 editions, does come as a surprise. Any new business venture takes a while to find its feet but clearly an impatient Trinity Mirror hadn’t seen enough in the first two months to convince it The New Day was worth further investment during challenging times for the company.
Ultimately, the paper, which drew unfavourable comparisons to the i and Metro during its short existence and clearly operated on a tight budget, never managed to be as bold or remarkable as the decision to launch it. However, Phillips' note on Facebook explains her clear and admirable belief that it was better to try and fail than not to try at all.
"To have not given this a go was to mean we were content to stand on the pavement and watch the decline of British national newspapers hurtle past us. But we weren't."
David Cameron’s PR operation has been criticised for fobbing off local newspapers with an article attributed to the PM that was compiled with an "insert name of county here" level of sincerity and all the humanity of an automated voice menu on a telephone helpline ("To hear why David Cameron loves… Yorkshire… press 1, now").
The same article, with minor edits, was hawked all over the country, making clear in the process that not only had Cameron been nowhere near the copy, but also the extent to which his PR people thought they could get editors to all run any old puff-piece for them for free simply by dangling the PM's name.
From the outset, the editors will have been well aware the article wasn't really written by Cameron. Of course it wasn't. Newspapers are familiar with ghost-written columns and contributions. But there still needs to be something in it for the paper and its readers. There needs to be a quality to the article, or an exclusivity that lifts it at least notionally above editorially worthless free-advertising.
The Yorkshire Post was so insulted it chose not only to decline the article but also to publicise the reasons why, chief among them being the fact Cameron's PR people continue to ignore serious questions from the paper while still expecting them to jump at the chance of some lazy PR filler.
As I pick up The New Day it strikes me how light it is. I wasn’t expecting the Sunday Times but at 40 pages it doesn't feel like it would see a lot of people through an average commute or even a long coffee break, especially as the word count across those 40 pages is kept in check by a lot of pictures, a large font and a clear commitment to brevity.
My other initial thought is about that name. The New Day. It sounds like it should be a religious cult, living in a commune in California.
But naming a newspaper in 2016 can’t be easy, nor can launching one. However, this is no ordinary newspaper, we are told. It has no political bias, apparently and no weekly columnists (which should save a few quid). It promises more debate and discussion and has done away with a sport section at the back of the paper.
So where is the sport?
The answer to that question tells us quite a lot about The New Day and its desire to be different. There’s a smattering of sport on pages 16 and 17 where there are 18 news-in-brief pieces, each around 40 or 50 words. Even with sport making a surprise reappearance on page 26 with a slightly longer piece, there is none of the depth you’d find in other papers' sports sections. It is just a random digest of some sports stories.
But sport is an obsession well served online, on radio and on television all weekend and as The New Day looks to differentiate itself perhaps it saw little point in spending time and money on sport come Monday morning. But then, why do it at all? Do it, or don’t do it, but don’t sort of not do it. And that is a feeling I have a few times as I read the paper. There is a similar approach to much of the news coverage - a quick-fire rattling through of some stories you may have seen elsewhere, on pages two and three (much like a light version of the same pages in the i newspaper). Then there are a few more nibs dotted about.
None of this is an accident or oversight. The paper clearly states it is "dedicated to ruthlessly editing the world's events" and is deliberately trying not to "bombard" readers with too much information.
I definitely don’t feel bombarded, though all this brevity does make more room for the debate and discussion which The New Day clearly wants to focus on.
A guest article attributed to Prime Minister David Cameron addresses "Our Big Decision" – the EU referendum. (The paper does like "Big". It also has a "Big Read", a "Big Question" and a "Bigger Picture" section). Cameron's case for staying in the EU is contrasted with doubts expressed by a mum-of-two teacher from London – in keeping with the paper's up front promise to represent the views of everybody "be they the Prime Minister or passer-by on the street". The spread is well designed and supplemented with statistics and key facts. The same is true of its front page lead - a report on child carers that runs over pages six and seven inside.
It’s still a fairly quick read but it is packaged up with relevant case studies and statistics and quickly gets to the heart of matter. It is the most interesting thing in today's paper and deserving of its place on the front page.
The format of The New Day certainly encourages people to keep scanning and keep turning the pages, with its quick fire content in snippets, rather than sections. There are some top tips and a 'news from around the web' page with tweets and the obligatory celebrity selfies and gossip. And with that the paper becomes much as you might expect from any other paper - with some weather, TV recommendations, horoscopes and a few puzzles that might give The New Day a fighting chance of filling that commute or coffee break after all.
But whether all of this gives it a fighting chance of survival is less clear. It is certainly a brave move to launch a newspaper in 2016, but the paper itself isn't as brave as the decision to launch it. While it feels a little different in places, it doesn't feel different enough. .
Another reader, Fred Dutton, suggested the "content felt pretty thin", however, he praised the "measured, civilised tone" and described it as "refreshing". Lisa Cunningham said she appreciated a "lack of nastiness" about the paper, but Sam Boshier said "it's not for me", adding there is "not enough meat to the articles" - a comment echoed by reader Alexandra Womack.
Having tried it for free on launch day, some readers raised questions about the 50p cover price The New Day will be charging.
"No way is it worth 50p", said Joseph Begley, adding that it "makes the i look like War and Peace by comparison".
Publisher Bauer has announced it is to stop publishing print titles FHM and Zoo. Hopefully any staff affected have had a plan B in place for some time as this news has certainly seemed inevitable since the closure of Nuts in 2014 which signaled the final days of the ailing ‘lads mag’. They have been squeezed out by a combination of challenges: from disputes with major retailers to changing consumer habits, exacerbated by the free availability of ‘banter’ and ‘boobs’ online. The decline has certainly been dramatic over the past decade, as the below circulation chart shows:
A decade of decline: Since 2005, lads mags have been in steady decline. FHM had already enjoyed a decade of success by this point but for young pretenders Zoo and Nuts it has almost been downhill all the way, having jumped on the bandwagon in 2004, just as it slowed.
When the Conservatives won a majority at the general election it was clear the BBC was in for a tough time, with charter renewal on the horizon and election favours to be repaid.
The government has made no secret of its feelings towards the BBC, of course (though it's been less open about its dealings with the commercial media owners who stand to benefit from cuts to the Beeb).
When much of the country's media is openly right-leaning it is natural the Conservatives would find the BBC's even-handedness frustrating - hence the regular cries of bias. But many of the arguments the government is putting forward to justify cuts don't stand up.
Take the suggestion the BBC is bad for local media, when a more pressing issue should be the extent to which local media owners are bad for local media - as highlighted by recent strike actions. Under-investment in journalism and effective digital strategies, alongside poor commercial planning, are hurting local media far more than a competitor that has been around for decades. But if you were the boss of a local or regional media company who would you blame for the falling quality of your product? Certainly not yourself.
The accusation that the BBC has gone "chasing ratings" clearly has a grounding in truth. What broadcaster doesn't want to draw an audience? It is the BBC's job to bring people together in good times, bad times, fun times and important times.
While programming such as The Voice (X Factor without the hit singles) or celebrity gymnastics show Tumble (Splash without the swimming pool) may expose the extent to which the BBC has made some bad bets in the name of entertainment, the obvious risk aversion and lack of imagination behind such decisions arguably makes a case for giving the BBC more room to breathe, not less. However, much of this is subjective and the debate cannot become about individual shows or even whole channels and stations.
Objecting to the licence fee because you can name a handful of programmes, or even whole channels or stations you don't like makes about as much sense as walking out of a restaurant refusing to pay the bill after an excellent, fairly-priced meal because there were other things on the menu you wouldn't have liked if you had ordered them.
The BBC's greatest strength is the choice it offers across online, television and radio. But the choice needs to be rich and diverse and the economics of content are such that we need to judge value carefully. Somebody who only watches niche documentaries on BBC4 may cry foul that their licence fee funds big budget prime time shows on BBC1 but 300,000 people watching a documentary on BBC4 are getting far greater value for money than 10 million watching The Voice, because they are getting a scarce product for the same price as a more commoditised product.
People enjoying the BBC's factual and documentary output benefit from the licence fee in a way that simply couldn't be recreated under any other funding model. One television historian told me commercial broadcasters may still commission occasional historical documentaries "but only if they are about Nazis or the Titanic". He was joking. But only just.
Nothing characterises the BBC's dilemma more than sport. Damned if it shows too much, damned if it shows too little. Take the recent example of the BBC being sidelined in the world of Olympic coverage which resulted in angry criticisms of the Corporation. The BBC arguably taught the world how to broadcast sport but is now being pushed to the periphery because money talks and the BBC is having to keep its voice down.
Love it or hate it, the role of sport in creating those moments which unite us should not be underestimated, nor should the impact of the BBC losing rights, because without its involvement sport is reaching ever-smaller audiences - the current Ashes series being a prime example. Currently the rights owners, such as sports' governing bodies, don't seem to care but in time they surely will.
Of course there are things we'd all change about the BBC if we could and we're all entitled to our moans - not least because - for now - we pay for it, not advertisers and not the government. Keeping the licence fee separate from general taxation and annual government budget reviews gives us all a claim over the services we receive and research shows the majority of us still favour the licence fee as the preferred way of funding the BBC (ICM, 2014).
As BBC Director General Tony Hall pointed out this week: "The BBC does not belong to the government. The BBC belongs to the country. The public are our shareholders. So it is their voice that will matter most in this debate."
For more on this subject, see:
The "mind-blowing excess" of BBC tea-drinkers
BBC critics ramp up their attacks
Bullish BBC boss comes out swinging
Telegraph bashes BBC for doing its research
BBC bashed for "lavish" lambing largesse
Sure, the online publisher in question is Russell Brand. Yes, Brand is ridiculous. Yes, he told people not to vote, but he has a large, young, potentially left-leaning following who are no doubt very capable of making up their own minds about whether to vote. On the face of it, it's easy to see why Miliband took the chance.
As an online publisher with reach into key demographics, Brand is very relevant. You don't have to like or admire him to acknowledge he's built an impressive media platform. Of course it's self-indulgent but as such it's arguably far more transparent than many other media outlets, owned and directed by distant proprietors with their own agendas.
10 Million Followers
Brand's YouTube channel has over a million subscribers. Each video gets between 100,000 and 250,000 views. It's fair to assume the Miliband one may get more viewers, from a broader audience and a great deal of wider coverage, because of all the publicity. To put his online influence into some context against more traditional media outlets, Brand's 10 million followers on Twitter compares to @TheSunNewspaper's 730,000 or @DailyMirror's 360,000. David Cameron dismissed Brand as a "joke" but sat down with Heat magazine, circulation 240,000, Twitter following 370,000.
That's not to say The Sun, The Mirror or Heat aren't also worthwhile outlets if politicians think they can get a fair hearing and reach an important audience. But the media is changing. Love him or hate him, Brand embodies a major trend as to where the media is heading.
As publications compete for clicks on social media, far too many are congregating around the hackneyed way of writing tweets and headlines that relies heavily on over-promising - "You'll never guess" (you probably could), "You won't believe" (you almost certainly will), "the best thing you'll read today" (it won't be, I promise) - and under-delivering - "what happened next will blow your mind" (it never does).
Once upon a time, simply not following a handful of publications was a guaranteed way to avoid such clickbait but now everybody seems to be at it (though some have been struggling to get it right as this effort from the Express shows):
The word "this" has a key role to play in the clickbait lexicon. "This" is the shrugging, indifferent teenager of the English language, a word so opposed to being helpful it can turn almost any informative headline into lazy clickbait by simply swapping it in for the subject of the sentence. It is used to disguise the often unspectacular truth of a story just long enough to make us click.
"This actor [who you've never heard of]..."
"Remember when this [thing you won't ever care about] happened..."
"Can you believe this [thing that's crushingly dull] just happened..."
In between, we are invariably asked "Is this the funniest...", "the best..." or "the weirdest..." and everything seems to be "adorable", "funny" a "prank" or we're told it is "going viral" (in the hope it might).
So taking an initiative from the Independent's John Rentoul and his banned list of words and phrases which have no place in good writing, I have started a 'Clickbait banned list'. If you're using one of the below then stop and ask yourself why. If it's because you want to over-promise and under-deliver, thus eroding the trust and respect of your readers, while insulting their intelligence and ensuring you become indistinguishable from everybody else overusing these lazy constructs, then carry on. But if that's not actually your long term goal then it's probably not too late to change.
The 'clickbait banned list' currently looks like this:
What have I missed? Post your suggestions below as comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, addressed colleagues on Monday, and presented a picture of a national broadcaster at a "cross-roads" as it seeks to exploit the potential of new technology while facing charter review and calls from critics for it to be cut down to size.
The BBC has struck a more bullish note in recent times and Hall certainly spoke like somebody who knows the stakes are too high to let those with commercial or political scores to settle steer the debate unchallenged.
Hall said those who don’t support the BBC "should be transparent about their motivations, and honest about the consequences" - consequences which he believes would include the loss of balanced, impartial quality journalism, free from the influence of "shareholders, advertisers or any other paymasters".
"Take news," said Hall, taking aim at the journalistic output of unnamed rivals. "It's easy to find something on the internet that looks like a fact, that squawks like a fact but that isn't a fact. Central to our democracy is that we all proceed on the basis of shared information and don’t just make up our own."
Hall even went so far as to suggest "if we didn't have a BBC funded by a licence fee, such is the world we face, we'd have to invent it".
Of course such bullishness is both understandable and fairly predictable. Hall is defending his patch at a time when he may feel forces are conspiring against him. The general election this year may well return a government who would relish the opportunity to preside over the charter review.
Last week, parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee declared the licence fee was "becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain", though its suggestion of an unspecified levy on all households will have softened that prognosis somewhat. However, there were plenty of warning shots across the BBC's bows in the Committee report, including the suggestion the BBC should pull back from areas already well-served by commercial broadcasters.
Peter Oborne, until today chief political commentator at the Telegraph, has left the paper claiming it has become too beholden to advertisers and too dumbed down.
It seems perceived bias in the paper's coverage of the HSBC scandal was the last straw for Oborne.
"The Telegraph's recent coverage of HSBC amounts to a form of fraud on its readers," Oborne told website OpenDemocracy. "It has been placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to Telegraph readers. There is only one word to describe this situation: terrible."
As well as detailing his issues with the Telegraph's coverage of HSBC, Oborne claimed other major advertisers have also been given too easy a ride.
It must be said the Telegraph "utterly refutes any allegation" that editorial decisions have been swayed by who buys advertising.
In a stinging, 3,000 word parting shot, Oborne criticised the paper for dumbing down its coverage. He cited a mix up over "deer stalking" versus "deer hunting" and confusion over Prince Edward's proper title as examples.
"Stories seemed no longer judged by their importance, accuracy or appeal to those who actually bought the paper," wrote Oborne. "The more important measure appeared to be the number of online visits."
Oborne was particularly affronted by "a story about a woman with three breasts" which was published despite the paper allegedly knowing it to be false.
Oborne's wordy public resignation follows in the footsteps of Daily Star journalist Rich Peppiatt who, back in 2011, penned a public letter of resignation to proprietor Richard Desmond branding his newspaper "a cascade of shit".
Newsquest's controversial plan to charge students to produce free content for their websites "devalues everything professional journalists do," according to one journalism lecturer.
Jo Wiltshire, who teaches journalism students at the University of Hertfordshire, told The Media Blog: "Asking for charges and fees just to build a portfolio is sending out a message that the work of journalists and writers is worth less than nothing."
Other lecturers have also been quick to criticise Newsquest's plans today.
Beth Brewster, head of journalism at Kingston University, tweeted: "I advise my journalism students not to give away their skill, creativity and labour for free. Asking them to pay for bylines is outrageous."
"Newsquest should be paying the student writers," she added. "I can't believe anyone ever thought this plan was a good idea."
Another journalism lecturer told The Media Blog she is "fuming" at Newsquest's plans which she described as "unbelievable".
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is also unimpressed. Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ's general secretary, said in a statement:
"While Newsquest is sacking professional staff on its titles, it is charging journalist students for writing articles for them. The unpaid intern has become the scourge of the media profession - now Newsquest is asking for journalist students to actually pay for a by-line. The company’s cynicism beggars belief, and preys on young people desperate to get a break in a competitive industry. Where is the commitment to quality journalism? They should be providing journalist students with a meaningful work experience and if their articles are good enough to be published, they are good enough to be paid for."
Some have said students don't have to take Newsquest up on its offer but in the hugely competitive world of journalism, as we have seen with unpaid internships, there will be those who probably will allow themselves to be exploited by the promise of a first foot on the career ladder. But exploiting free labour does nobody any good in the long term. It undermines the job security of professional journalists, closes doors to those who cannot afford to give their work away for free and inevitably damages the quality of journalism.
Wiltshire said: "In-demand industries such as the media have long been in a position where they can hold inexperienced young people to ransom. By pushing that even further, asking for charges and fees just to build a portfolio, it is turning a dynamic and proud career choice into a vanity project for those whose families can bankroll it."
Newsquest, publisher of local papers around the UK, has hit upon a bit of a wheeze. It wants to charge students £120 to produce content for its newspaper websites, without pay.
The Guardian reports that colleges with journalism courses were contacted by Newsquest with "an exciting and unique chance to experience working for a local paper".
Apparently students would be getting the chance to "work" [there's that word again] "as journalists for an online newspaper" - just without the hassle of having to provide bank details and national insurance numbers, or be put on the payroll. And all it would cost students and colleges for this "exciting and unique" opportunity to work for free is a £100 registration fee and £20 per student.
The commitment would apparently be fairly light, just one unpaid article per month, over a period of eight months, at the end of which "all students who complete all eight articles, receive a letter of recognition from the editor".
Just think what you could buy with that.
Nothing. That’s what.
Good luck walking into a pub waving that piece of paper about on the last Friday of the month.
"I’ll have a pint of nothing and a couple packets of fuck-all please barman!"
"Coming right up! I’ll just need to see your letter of recognition from Newsquest."
According to Newsquest these letters of recognition – a sort of 'certificate of exploitation' - can be used "as a reference with their CVs". And that’s not all. Students will also get their name in an "award ceremony brochure" as well, though you'd search long and hard to find a landlord who will accept a brochure as a damage deposit for a flat, or a supermarket who will swap it for a week's groceries.
After 44 years it has been reported The Sun has quietly dropped its traditional page 3 featuring daily pictures of topless women.
However, it should be pointed out The Sun maintains that reports in The Guardian and even its own sister paper The Times are "speculation". The Sun is issuing no official statement but nor is it denying the reports which The Guardian claims have been confirmed by high level insiders:
Insiders said the decision has been taken to kill off the controversial feature quietly but that the feature would continue online.
"This comes from high up, from New York," said one senior executive in a reference to the paper’s owner Rupert Murdoch. (The Guardian, 20 January)
It would certainly make sense if The Sun has decided to drop the topless pictures. The paper has faced mounting criticism, most notably from the No More Page 3 campaign which has enlisted major organisations and public figures, as well as more than 215,000 supporters who have signed an online petition urging editor David Dinsmore to drop it.
While Sun readers may have had no problem with page 3, News UK and even some staff surely will have done. The mounting public criticism will have been heaping pressure on journalists, sales teams, advertisers and others it needs to maintain a relationship with, from politicians to celebrities. And in a society which has come a little way in terms of equality since the 1980s heyday of page 3, such an anachronism on its pages in 2015 will surely have made it increasingly difficult to credibly hold others to account. After all, this is a family newspaper which censored words like "arse" and "tits" yet proudly showed both on the very first page a reader of any age might turn to.
And when The Sun's ultimate decision-maker, Rupert Murdoch, publicly expressed his opinion that he likes women to be a little more dressed up, the die seemed cast. Although that was back in September last year it seems plausible the paper may have chosen to ride out a few additional months of criticism and wait for a new calendar year - a general election year no less, when The Sun should be looking to exert its influence, not further undermine it - to make it look like a decision it had made of its own volition.
What seems less plausible is that the paper would now reveal this all to be a red herring, to return tomorrow or the next day with a topless model on page 3. But then it seemed unthinkable the paper would ever rehire Kelvin Mackenzie, yet it recently did, so we should take nothing for granted.
Business Insider has published an interesting review of how newspapers are fairing as they transition from the paper-based world they knew so well into a digital age which so clearly still flummoxes some of them.
The Guardian and the Mail lead the way with big numbers their reward for giving content away free, though questions will always persist about the sustainability and margins of a free model.
However, Business Insider is more concerned about the rest of the press pack. Of the Telegraph, it says "the entire organization is struggling with the transition to digital".
The Telegraph's metered paywall, which lets us have a few stories free per month before kicking in is a clumsy, neither-nor sort of measure, the logic of which I have struggled to understand since it was introduced.
The problem with it is that, by chance, I only seem to hit the paywall while in the process of clicking on something I can find for free elsewhere - a sports report, a piece of news from the wires or a piece of news written up from a press release. Any inclination to sign up is quashed by the fact I'll be able to get what I'm looking for elsewhere, for free.
If the Telegraph really wants to have a paywall which is triggered at a given point, it would surely be better served linking that trigger to types of content rather than just picking an arbitrary monthly limit. Give the commodity stuff away free, tag it to not trigger the paywall, but make people sign-up for the unique stuff. For example, I enjoy the political sketches of Michael Deacon but as he doesn't produce enough each month to trigger the paywall across the multiple devices I use to access the Telegraph website, I get to read it all for free. But Sod's Law says the paywall would activate as I clicked on, for example, the Telegraph's write-up of a Rightmove survey about the best places to live in Britain (St Ives, apparently). In that case I'd easily be able to find the article elsewhere:
The Times and The Sun meanwhile are toiling away behind their far less ambiguous paywalls. Business Insider is critical of the dramatic fall in online readers that the paywall brought about at both titles, but that drop will not have come as a surprise to News UK and the company remains very upbeat about the progress it is making. As reported last month, there are now 225,000 subscribers signed up to The Sun's digital offering, with the majority paying £7.99 per month. Though as an aside The Sun did this week launch a site covering the Millies - its annual awards for military service men and women - with articles which sit outside the paywall. However, News UK says this was a one off for the Millies and it has no immediate plans to put other content outside the paywall.
The bleakest prognosis is reserved for the Express which Business Insider reports is "losing the war on all fronts" with print sales in a similar decline to many of its rivals but web traffic that is considerably lower. In October this year, the Mail Online got almost as many people onto its website in a single day (14.4 million) as the Express managed in the whole month (16.4 million). The According to ABCe figures, the Express gets less than 10 per cent of the monthly traffic enjoyed by its nearest editorial neighbour.
The Express's response seems to have been an attempt to ape the Daily Mail's infamous 'sidebar of shame' with much of its online content but its efforts are clearly failing to pull in the same volume of readers.
Writing in her column for The Sun, former Tory MP Louise Mensch has trotted out one of the laziest non-sequiturs aired in the heated debate around press regulation.
Under the headline "8 kids by 5 women – it’s no wonder they like their privacy", Mensch suggests actors Hugh Grant and Jude Law, who both took objection to their phones being hacked in the pursuit of celebrity gossip, only have a problem with such invasion of privacy because "neither man has made a habit of settling down with their baby-mothers in recent years".
It’s not the first time this argument has been wheeled out in the name of cheap point-scoring against Hugh Grant. In fact Mensch is about 10 months behind a number of her peers.
The suggestion seems to be both men are acting out of some irrational self-interest. But even if they were motivated purely by a desire to protect their own private lives, what the likes of Mensch have never explained is why it is unreasonable, or why the likes of Hugh Grant should accept they have no right to privacy where their children and personal relationships are concerned.
“What a coincidence that both actors were involved in the battle to censure the press,” writes Mensch, ignoring the prior coincidence that both men had their phones hacked long before they appeared at the Leveson Inquiry.
It does the media's arguments against regulation no favours to make them so blinkered and so obviously half-baked.
Mensch no doubt thinks defending the right to pick over the private lives of celebrities is the right thing to do. But all she has done is re-enforce the notion that the papers have become too obsessed with celebrity, that picking over the private lives of celebrities such as Grant and Law is a cause worth defending.
Mensch surely does more damage basing her defence of a free press around the right to know how many children a celebrity has had by how many partners than she repairs by offering that defence.
The Daily Star has fallen in love with some 'black-eyed ghost children' from Cannock Chase in the Midlands. Last week the paper ran three front page stories about them:
Clearly the Star was happy with the sales generated and the ease with which these tall tales could be written. So much so that the paper has followed up with a further two ghost stories. Though just to be on the safe side they have also woven in some popular TV shows for good measure.
First came news that the X Factor house is haunted...
And then, as luck would have it, news broke on Thursday that Strictly Come Dancing is also being haunted by the black-eyed ghost children with a thing for Saturday night television shows...
Nobody was more surprised by this latest news than Strictly contestant Caroline Flack who the Star had written into their story. The Daily Star says "Caroline Flack was menaced by the evil spirit during a practice session and even took a photo".
To which Flack responded on Twitter: "I have no idea what this story is."
Perhaps Flack was just so scared she has repressed her memories of the terrifying ordeal.
The coverage of two very different stories over the past week has served as an interesting barometer of UK newspaper priorities. One is a tragic story from west Africa which has been developing since mid-April but gaining long-overdue worldwide attention in the past week, the other is a celebrity tale from Hollywood.
There is growing anger about how little media attention there has been on the human rights abuses in Nigeria which have seen more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped and subjected to terrible crimes.
Meanwhile it was almost impossible to miss the news that George Clooney got engaged this week.
Just five of nine national daily newspapers* covered the ongoing situation in Nigeria during the period of 28 April to 3 May compared to eight which covered the news of Clooney's engagement:
The story count for the week also shows a similar pattern with more stories in total being written about the Clooney engagement (34) than the Nigerian kidnappings (21). However, in terms of word count the two stories have seen almost identical levels of coverage over the past week with 11,449 words printed about George Clooney and 11,043 printed about the Nigerian kidnappings (though 4,824 of those words appeared in just one newspaper, The Guardian).
The Guardian's dominant role (4,824 words) in covering the news from Nigeria can be clearly seen when looking at the top three media outlets by word count. The Times (2,688 words) produced the second highest level of coverage followed, some may think surprisingly, by the Mirror (1,504 words):
Perhaps also surprising, The Guardian, with 2,430 words on the subject, printed the greatest amount of coverage of the George Clooney engagement (including 491 words on 'How will getting hitched affect Clooney's image?'). The Telegraph (2,090) was second followed by the Daily Mail (2,006).
Of course it could be argued that some of this may be down to the fact broadsheets typically run longer articles, though that isn't strictly true in this case. The Sun's longest article on George Clooney was 957 words, compared to 942 for The Guardian. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail and the Express produced the most articles about Clooney with seven apiece over the week, while the longest single article was an incredible 1,200 word monster in The Telegraph.
This is only a simple analysis of how the papers treated just two stories over a six day period and suggesting word count or story count are, on their own, an effective measure of priority - or quality - of coverage would be foolish. Looking at the balance struck on each paper individually perhaps paints the clearest picture of where papers' priorities were.
The Times and The Guardian had almost identical ratios of Nigerian news to Clooney engagement news:
It is of course entirely up to each newspaper to decide what their readers will want or need to know about and the Telegraph was obviously convinced its readers would be more interested in and better served by a focus on Clooney, while The Mirror was almost the exact opposite:
The Sun and The Express clearly believed the news from Nigeria would not be of interest or of importance to their readers, while both gave significant coverage to George Clooney's news:
The Daily Mail also decided against covering the Nigerian news while the Independent believed its readers would have - or should have - no interest in Clooney's happy news:
* For the purposes of this research the national newspapers analysed were the main print editions of The Sun, Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Guardian and The Times printed during the period 28 April to 3 May. The Independent's i was omitted due to the duplication of content already counted in the Independent.
Getty Images has announced that it is letting website owners, bloggers and social media users make use of its extensive bank of photography and stock images free of charge for non-commercial, editorial-only purposes.
So if a blogger ever needs a picture of - for example - a cat looking at a goldfish... hey presto:
The images are all available via Getty's website and can be easily embedded using embed code generated by Getty - just look for the </> symbol which appears beneath views of images...
It seems Getty realised an uncontrollable number of people were making free with its images anyway, so decided to at least get the benefits of some links, credit and good will out of it.
Although anybody in theory is allowed to use the images within an editorial context, according to The Independent Getty is responding specifically to "the rise of the self-publisher".
Senior vice-president Craig Peters said: "We saw people using Getty Images' content widely but they weren't using it with a licence and there wasn't any benefit to the photographer."
However, it is worth noting that the free images may change or be removed over time and Getty maintains the right to change what appears in the embedded viewer. That could include incorporating advertising to make this give-away pay its way.
Peters told CNET Australia:
"Over time there are monetisation options we can look at. That could be data options, advertising options. If you look at what YouTube has done with their embed capabilities, they are serving ads in conjunction with those videos that are served around the internet."
And if you're wondering how it worked out for the goldfish in that photoshoot. Not well...
Mike Darcey, CEO of News UK, publisher of The Sun and The Times newspapers has questioned the online business model of the Daily Mail while calling on the newspaper industry to moderise its methods of measurement.
The two points are not unrelated. The Mail Online is the embodiment of the school of thought which says flooding the internet with tacky clickbait to attract huge audiences can be profitable while Darcey is clearly a man who believes in ringfencing smaller, more identifiable audiences behind paywalls, such as those imposed on The Sun and The Times.
According to News UK, it has 100,000 digital subscribers at The Sun and 153,000 at The Times. However, compared to the Mail Online's millions of daily visitors, it paints a picture of an industry where critics, commentators, analysts and more importantly advertisers are no longer comparing apples with apples.
Darcey, in positioning this as a matter of high volume versus high value - where the two are mutually exclusive - suggests the Mail may have chosen an unsustainable path with its 'pile it high and sell it cheap' approach to drawing a mass audience and attracting advertisers, and he was pulling no punches when speaking at the Enders Analysis Media & Telecoms 2014 Conference in London, Tuesday.
"Mail Online is a very interesting experiment in operating a global, free, celebrity gossip website. It is even possible that it might be a success one day, although the jury is still out. Online ad rates continue to fall as supply expands inexorably. And while Mail Online has scale relative to its immediate peers, it remains a minnow compared to the likes of Facebook and the other Internet titans. Worse, competing with these guys looks like a loser, because they have the advantage of no real content costs – their content is created by their customers – and their ad sell is awash with viewer data, which is less true for Mail Online."
Darcey makes a fair point. Although the Mail Online has achieved profitability in the past 18 months, breaking even when you boast millions of readers each day suggests pretty tight margins and a clear threat of diminishing returns if the strategy for growing revenue is simply to flood the market with ever more commoditised content. Already the Mail is pouring photo stories onto its web pages, sourced from picture agencies and paparazzi around the world, faster than its legion of staff can write captions for them:
However, it wasn't just the Mail that Darcey was critical of. He also questioned the sense of the Guardian continuing to give away its quality journalism for free:
"The Guardian is systematically loss making, to the tune of about £40m a year. All the while, the free offering undermines demand for the paid-for print product, now at risk of a deadly spiral of falling circulation and rising price. It seems fairly clear where this ends."
Which brought Darcey onto what he thinks the answer is: paywalls and "content bundles" of course, such as those which exist behind the paywall of The Sun and The Times.
In News UK's case, creating such "content bundles" included the costly acquisition of Premier League football rights (an exercise in getting people behind a paywall which it could be argued is no more based on journalism than the Mail's "copying and re-writing content from social media sites" which Darcey also highlighted.)
"Rather than hurting, new technology is helping us to build deeper customer relationships, a more distinctive product, a more personal service for our customers and an enhanced opportunity for advertisers. Today, if you are a Times subscriber, no longer do you simply read the analysis from our football journalists, you can watch the highlights of the game ...embedded in the match report in the tablet edition."
"So let's stop talking as if the future of technology and the future of news are in conflict. They are not. It’s true that printed newspapers will probably never again sell the volumes that they did in their heyday. But then television’s evening news will probably never again get the audience that it enjoyed in the past, and the same goes for Coronation Street."
This is why Darcey argues there need to be measurements which reflect the changes that have taken place.
"I'm still new to the news industry but I remain mystified as to why, 15 years into the Internet era, and with everyone claiming mature digital strategies, we still only ever talk about print sales. Imagine the music industry measuring success today through the sales of CDs alone while ignoring iTunes."
Darcey overlooks to a degree the ABCe audit figures which show the relative health of newspaper websites, but he is right to suggest print circulation remains the major measure of success.
"A sustainable model for professional journalism at scale cannot be achieved by turning all of our national papers into celebrity gossip sites. Nor do I believe it is achievable by giving away our hard work for free."
For more on this, see:
The Guardian: 'Mail Online's rip-off practice is tawdry – but is Darcey jealous of its success?'
For those of us who completely missed the bit of the story arc where Prince Harry had a beard, the big news today that he no longer does has come as quite a shock. Fortunately there's no shortage of media outlets willing to fill us in on all the details, including the news that he most likely removed the beard by shaving.