The mass suicide of newspapers

In recent months, the Guardian online has stolen an idea from a much-loved blog site and started asking readers to forgo the price of a cup of coffee in order to donate money to the hard-pressed publication. Now, this is fair enough coming from Scriptonite, run as it is by one (unpaid) person. The Guardian, no longer a trust, is run by a corporation which is hardly likely to run out of money. They just resent the fact that their newspaper is becoming expensive to run.


People say newspapers are failing fast – is this because of the internet, or because not many people think they’re worth the money? Why would people think that? if you go to Liverpool, people will tell you about Hillsborough, and explain that if the newspapers want people to buy them, they should stop attacking the people. (For details, look up Total Eclipse of the S*n or Justice for the 96 online.
total eclipse
Where I live, in Hastings, many people stopped buying the ‘local’ paper, the Hastings & St Leonards Observer (which is actually run by the national organisation Johnston Press) when it used a wraparound front cover to rubbish Labour by twisting a bad joke the week before the last election. On close examination, it proved not actually to be the paper but an advertisement, carried by the Hastings Observer and around half a dozen of its clones across the country, and apparently paid for by the Conservative Party Central office.

Now, weeks before the panic election called by Theresa May, the Observer is making a desperate bid to get some readers back. Under the headline “your trusted source of news for the 2017 general election”, the editor writes that he “promised to review” their policy and that this time they will try to avoid advertising “that might be confused with our independent content”. He goes on to say that “the more you encourage neighbours and friends” to buy the paper, and the more local businesses advertise in it, the less they will be “dependent on political advertising”. Hmm, what would you call that – greymail?

In the meantime, there are indignant complaints on social media about other local papers across the country carrying front page article-ads paid for on behalf of Theresa May. So what’s going on? Corporations intend their products to make them money and, as the Hastings Observer discovered, Conservative Party advertisements are not popular and lose them money. If you look at the number of people who actually vote Conservative, you will see that no profiteering executive would suggest they are the desired readership. In 2015, only around 37% of the vote was Conservative and that’s not 37% of the population – just of those who actually voted.

So what are the newspapers doing? Is it mass ritual suicide? In a way, I rather suspect it is. What kind of people will habitually vote Conservative? I don’t mean those who look around, inform themselves, then choose to – I mean people who can be relied upon to always vote Conservative – even if it means they’re voting against their own interests (not many people can really do without the NHS, or decent pensions and social care)? They must be quite reclusive, quite unaware of what’s going on in the world. They probably live in marginal constituencies, and just sit at home and read the paper for company. Oh. Yes.

Well done, newspapers! A worthy sacrifice to save the hides of the wealthy minority!

You can see the 2015 election newspaper wraparound here:

Meanwhile, a similar discussion is developing as to the motives of the BBC in alienating the majority of their viewers at every opportunity…

BBC man in shed

So – if reading the newspaper or watching the TV makes you feel angry – or worse still, lonely – go find some real people to talk to, or use some newspapers or websites not run by corporate manipulators. We really are not as daft as the media would have us believe!

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