Twitter-led Outrage Won’t Change the Sunday Newspaper Tale of the Tape

Offensive flim flam?

Twitter outrage led me to an article I would otherwise have missed: the pitiable flim-flam on the Jo Yeates murder case, penned by the Mail on Sunday’s Liz Jones.

Left feeling sullied by the risible piece, I followed the unfolding outrage and contempt in the comments section, on blogs – and most notably on Twitter.

There, it became clear for many the most shocking aspect of Jones’ piece was the sheer, breathtaking depths of her self-absorption in the face of brutality, tragedy and grief.

Jones is the latest writer at the Daily Mail group to attract the ire of the Twittering classes.

Jan Moir discovered that a cap of 140 characters sets no limit on public expressions of distaste, when her opinions on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately provoked a public backlash.

Here’s the thing though: For all the morally superior headshaking; the public expressions of distaste and outrage; the excoriation of the controversial columnists, the Mail Group newspapers are incredibly successful, in a sector where successes are few and far between.

Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail has just seen his pay packet swell to £2.8m per year. The Daily Mail sells 400,000 more copies per day than it did when he took over in 1992 – while virtually every other paper has haemorrhaged sales in the same period.

As for the Mail on Sunday – the most recent audited circulation figures show it is faring best among the UK’s Sunday newspapers in an incomparably tough market, keeping close to around two million sales per week.

As if to defy its ‘middle England’ label, north of the border it is the only paper to be increasing sales – up by 1% in the most recent ABC figures to 115,000 per week.

Here is the confounding tale of the tape I mentioned – the Sunday Herald relaunched just over a week ago as a ‘news magazine’ and managed to increase sales by 15%. Sounds impressive until you realise that meant 47,770 copies sold, around 40% of what the MoS manages in Scotland.

I was unflattering about the Sunday Herald’s relaunch because it was poor.  I’m delighted to say that in its second week the team at the paper have stepped up and delivered a far superior product. Front to back in the latest edition the design was clean and impressively easy on the eye and the quality of the content was higher.

A challenge for the new look paper was in boiling down distinct and separate sections into a coherent, 96-page whole. In week one the transition from news to business through fashion and arts to sport was a clunky ordeal. In week two it was managed with aplomb.

For a piece of superb commentary, the Sunday Herald’s Essay of the Week by Ian Bell was everything the Liz Jones piece was not: thoughtful and thought-provoking; challenging-in-the-face of tragedy without being trite or trivial; acutely self-aware, rather than self-absorbed (unfortunately it is not yet online, so I can’t share a link).

It seems that all the 140 character complaining the Twitterati can muster is little more than echo chamber noise.  It won’t change the fact that one of these papers sells by the shed load, while the other is fighting tooth and nail for its very survival.

Tweet that.


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