Sunday, 4 December 2011

Content is king, but what content is winning?

Since the invention of the alphabet, the printing press and more latterly the internet and the web 2.0 it supports, technology has enabled people to record and broadcast information with incredible effectiveness and efficiency.

The Leveson inquiry has shone a spotlight on the current state of journalism, and some interesting and worrying statistics have come to light. For example, Peter Preston reports in the Guardian that the tabloid papers the Mail, Mirror, Express, Star and Sun have a total of 19,272,000 readers each day, with the Sun enjoying 7,652,000 alone. Meanwhile, the more respectable publications fare much worse: the Daily Telegraph gets 1,584,000 readers, the Times 1,435,000, the Guardian 1,119,000, the Independent 451,000,  and the Financial Times only 325,000. The weekly Economist boasts only 597,000 UK readers. Turning back to the celeb and gossip magazines, we find that OK! boasts 2,110,000 readers, Hello! 1,557,000 (is it that exclamation marks attract readers?), Heat 1,487,000, Closer 1,623,000, and Chat 1,192,000 readers.

It seems that trash sells, and news doesn't. Is it any wonder, then, that editors push their journalists to dig it up wherever they can?

There was a time Paul Adams tells us that people believed that digital communications would rid the world of gossip and rumour-mongering as everyone would be able to have near real-time access to the facts. It seems that far from that, it is almost the reverse that is happening. Perhaps most people are simply not that interested in real news after all.

The world is moving online, and with it, commerce. And online, they say, content is king. Exactly what kind of content will it take to attract customers? Perhaps there are some depressing clues in the statistics above.