Newspaper editors smell blood online: Case in point- Brand and Wossy
I was reading an interesting article from Peter Wilby on the tube last night talking about how the Mail led the news agenda brilliantly in their pursuit of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand after their lewd prank phone calls to Andrew Sachs.
Here’s the recording on youtube:
But what struct a nerve with me was this quote:
Even the Mail – perhaps reluctant to go overboard on a story broken by a Sunday in the same house – didn’t make it the splash, though it ran a front-page picture of Brand and inside, Melanie Phillips gave her usual imitation of a Victorian dowager who has overdosed on laudanum. Ross and Brand, she raved, were guilty of “cruelty and indeed sadism” and their behaviour was “bordering on the psychopathic”. Her column attracted 209 comments (mostly anti-BBC) on the Mail website, the Sunday story 220 – numbers well above average. The Mail scented blood.
So who was it that was really ‘setting the agenda’? Editors are even now bowing to the ‘power of the crowd’ using online articles as their own litmus test for how much a story has touched a nerve with the nation. As the article describes, the press jury was certainly out as to how serious ‘Wossy’ and Brand’s brands behaviour really was- I mean we could expect the Media Guardian to jump on it- but rolling news on Sky during a presidential election and one of the worst economic downturns of a generation?!
The true lesson is the growth in appreciation for listening to your audience, whether you’re a brand, a national newspaper editor… or even a BBC radio presenter; Russell and Wossy; listen up.