Monday 13 June 2016

The Daily Telegraph deserves to fail

As much as the Telegraph is lying to its advertisers by faking sales figures of its hard copy, it is now lying to its online advertisers. The reason Telegraph articles are peppered with pointless and intrusive pictures and vids is to increase the visit duration because advertisers are now starting to ask more sophisticated questions about page hits.

What their digital strategists haven't clocked is that it's actually pissing a lot of readers off and making them less inclined to read anything. I don't know how they manage to be this incompetent.

Though it's easy to see why it is tanking from the journalism on offer. They have lawyers and sub editors interfering with submissions, cross linking to corporate approved sources only and imposing pointless word limits on people which prohibit the necessary level of detail that may retain readership.

The fact is, they have forgotten how to add value. They are followers, not leaders. They see bloggers as competition to be frozen out rather than part of an ecosystem to be nurtured as a talent pool. But who is going to give them the time of day when they pay £275k a year to Boris Johnson for his flatulence but only £50 to a blogger who does actually know their subject?

They have just sacked most of their best writers and instead rely on junior hacks without any depth or experience. The follow the media herd in reporting the dismal and shallow slanging matches from the bubble assuming that the public are more interested in that than being informed.

As it happens, you have to nurture interest in something so you need columnists who work as bloggers do, hunting in packs and developing a knowledge base. Instead they select from a narrow pool of interchangeable egos from the conservative circle jerk whose opinions I wouldn't give tuppence ha'penny for. Self-satisfied lazy people who have no inherent curiosity.

You're never going to get genuine journalistic enquiry with such a proscribed doctrinaire approach and certainly not without editorial independence. It naturally stifles good writing - not least asking people to write about things they know nothing about.

But since you can't retain a talent pool of expertise anymore because of financial constraints, you need to know where the expertise is in order to call upon it. That's where bloggers come in Bloggers tend to be monomaniacs and sponges for information. They know where all the facts and figures are. Moreover they are not entirely motivated by money. They are genuinely curious people who tend to thrive on hits and exposure. If you link out to them so they thrive then you build up a lot of good will and backlinking from them.

But the Telegraph does not link out to bloggers so it is not reciprocated. If it references bloggers at all it steals the work without attribution. Daniel Hannan and Alistair Heath do this. Let's call it what it is. Theft. And Telegraph policy is to link only to itself or sources the editors go to lunch with. If you're not in the club, you don't exist.

That is why journalism is withering on the vine and these rags are now treated with contempt by people who do actually know what's going on. The joke of it is, the model I propose would actually see writers paid properly, produce a better product and could be done cheaper.

As much as TLA bloggers are second to none on EU issues, there are specialists and contributors to global forums who could uncover an entire universe of interesting politics which gets no exposure at all. People like Justin Stares of Maritime Watch - a fascinating and vital field in its own right, and David Cenciotti of The Aviationist. Not to mention communications officers within the NGOcracy (Sandy Starr for instance) who tend to be expert in their field.

The fact is, if you are producing the goods that people can't get anywhere else and adding value, you will have a loyal and appreciative audience. Not so if all you're producing is exactly the same tat you can get anywhere. That is why the Telegraph is regarded as a joke and that is why it has to lie to advertisers. That is why it's a second rate clickbait rag dying on its arse getting by on (rapidly diminishing) brand prestige alone.

To some extent the Guardian has the right format with a slightly better attitude to the outside world, but their problem is that they think self-satisfied leftwing smugness qualifies as expertise. That cannot be corrected as it is endemic to the creed.

In a crowded market with all the rags chasing the same shrinking pond your strategy should be to nurture a new audience. You can do that by borrowing the readers of your contributors. But you only retain them if your purpose is to add value and increase understanding - and to acknowledge your critics rather than ignoring them.

For as long as our media remains a inbred, self-referential circle jerk, full of worn out preening egotists like Iain Martin, Dan Hodges and Con Coughlin it will continue to wither on the vine. But since it has such a lame attitude to the world of writing and a contempt for intellectual property I actually look forward to the day when the Daily Telegraph closes its doors for the last time. Journalism cannot thrive until these bed blockers are put out of their misery.

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