Robin Brown

Journo. Editor. Tutor. Dour northerner.

Archive for the ‘Mail Online’ tag

Everyone wants to be the Huffington Post

without comments

News that the Huffington Post – the current Death Star of journalism for reasons outlined here – is now generating twelvety billion impressions a day has obviously enervated the UK’s newspapers.

Well, the online versions of them anyway. The Daily Mail adapted first – and is a recognisably different beast form the print version. Put simply, it has a lot of tits down the iconic right-hand sidebar that virtually stick your fingers to the mouse – metaphorically and, quite possibly, literally depending on the photo.

The Mail Online also writes what might be the first ever article it’s ever done virtually every time it mentions a topic. So, for example, if I were to write an article on the Mail – in the style of the Mail Online – I’d go into how the long the website has been live, how many redesigns it’s had, what it’s raison de’tre is and any recent newsworthy items relating to it. Let’s say, um, Jan Moir’s vile columns or Twitter poll karma. Basically you can expect to read a mini Wikipedia entry about the topic on every different article; like a pen picture for the stupid.

I expect that, combined with lots of other tics, this is an SEO exercise – as the entire site is, really. 3.2 million articles can’t hurt, mind.

The reason for this image will be revealed later on

The Mail also a internet dog-whistler – even going to the trouble recently of winding up its own audience with a ‘lefties are more clever than righties’ article – and it borrows a trick from its print self in stoking up people’s irrational fears and disgust.

The Mail and the Huffington Post have been duking it out for some time for traffic. Other papers have their own versions: The Telegraph has a frothing twat by the name of Jams Delingpole whose only purpose is to wind people up. The Guardian has an entire section devoted to that purpose in the shape of Comment Is Free. The Indy writes millions upon millions of ‘top ten’ articles – it’s almost pitiful.

But I’ve noticed something else in the last few weeks that I did not notice before – something I can only put down to the clear success off The Huffington Post. Namely, idiotic galleries designed to keep users clicking through dozens of pages, getting trillions of eyeballs on display ads and ensuring they’re shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Is Cheryl back with Ashley?

Today the Torygraph has dozens of images of Steve Coogan’s various alter egos – something that amounts to 24 press stills assembled with approximately ten minutes’ effort writing captions. Last week the Grauniad had a load of photos of dogs swimming underwater, for crying out loud.

Somewhere else the Grauniad is following the Huffington Post is into the free resource market. I say ‘free resource market’. What I really mean is ‘using bloggers and media professionals who can’t find employment to churn out high-quality work for no money’. At least the Guardian asks – the HuffPo gets its free labour to take stuff from the web, rehash it vaguely and throw a link back to the source, buried among a million ads and calls-to-action.

I find this fairly egregious, but symptomatic of where the web is heading. Shorter attention spans, sites wielding their Page Ranks like weapons of mass destruction and a brainless mix of celebrity flesh and diverting pictures.

In celebration of the New Journalism, here’s a top ten of internet facepalms I’ve collected from around the internet that other people have taken the time to mock up.

Faceplams are an internet meme popularised by an image of Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Patrick Stewart holding his head in hands. They are meant to typify frustration or disbelief at the behaviour of others (my own genuine facepalm is above).

Star Trek: The Next Generation is a US TV network show that was broadcast between 1987-1994, starring Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart is a Shakespearean actor known for his bald head. Baldness implies partial or complete lack of hair. Stewart had a famous public with roly-poly funnyman James Corden at an awards ceremony in 2010.

Written by Robin Brown

February 27th, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Twitter delivers instant karma to Jan Moir

with 3 comments

At a guess Jan Moir has had about 10,000 tweets devoted to slating her intelligence, appearance and humanity today, following a nasty little article in the Daily Mail about Stephen Gately’s death.

Moir managed to get to the top of Twitter’s top trends, normally reserved as a kind of telegraph system for broadcasting death notices of celebrities, for a good couple of hours today – probably giving her the kind of widespread publicity most journalists would pay for.

Moir Twitter

In the article Moir states that there was ‘nothing natural’ about Gately’s death; writes a couple of hundred words of innuendo and speculation about the supposedly sordid final hours of the Bozone singer; and ends her article with the implication that all same-sex civil partnerships are doomed to end in an early death.

Another real sadness about Gately’s death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.

For once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.

Moir, whether deliberately or not, conflates homosexuality with ‘dangerous’ lifestyles and ‘dark’ appetites, also dragging the death of Matt Lucas’ former partner into the argument.

It’s the kind of thing that the Mail, its columnists and readers revel in so it comes as no surprise to me. However the Twittersphere has seen things differently and sent tens of thousand of volleys of personal abuse the way of Moir.

Moir is the kind of self-righteous female columnist lampooned by Private Eye who make a habit of furiously attacking other women for their appearance, tread the tiresome ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ line and exist in a world where every crapulous observation is accompanied by an equally terrible pun.

They’re mean, spiteful and full of themselves, and newspapers lap them up. Here are some previous greatest hits:

• ‘Eating a ham sarnie causes cancer? These ham-fisted food fascists are just pig ignorant’ – Moir knows more about cancer than the World Cancer Research Fund

• ‘Oh, dear! That was a total dog’s breakfast’ – Moir slates Alastair Darling and his wife for their appearance

• ‘Jade was a unique and very brave girl. But let’s not pretend she was a saint’ – Moir criticises the freshly-dead Jade Goody

The Gately article is nasty, insidious stuff but it’s kind-of par for the course for these kind of columnists.

Where this case differs is that vast amounts of people can now access their work via websites, which were previously accessible only to newspaper buyers.

So, Moir becomes the most-insulted person on Earth for a day. But I strongly doubt the Mail will take the article down, with all the traffic and link juice such attention-seeking articles garner.

It’s the same reason The Grauniad’s Comment Is Free section keeps printing articles designed to specifically bait its own readership.

Inbound links, hits, ad clicks, user-generated content, publicity. They’re all likely to outweigh any negative publicity. And the Mail’s readership are hardly likely to see anything wrong with the article.

I suspect Moir herself will lap it up – she’s the kind of columnist that thrives on hatred.

Then again, it’s not every day one gets to see someone on the receiving end of such comprehensive come-uppance, so my gratitude to Twitter for its amusing and heartfelt outpouring of hatred.

• There’s already a Facebook group demanding a retraction and a suggestion that the article breaks several PCC rules. You can view the form here.

UPDATE: Well, I didn’t see this coming

UPDATE 2: Moir has apologised, though it’s a decidedly mealy-mouthed half apology:

“The point of my column – which I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all. Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.

“In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages. In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”

This was exactly the kind of ‘what a lot of fuss over nothing’ response I’d expected, but it seems that if you hit papers where it hurts – in the wallet – even the likes of the Mail are forced to backtrack.

Written by Robin Brown

October 16th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Twitter excoriates Daily Mail Online

with 5 comments

It goes without saying that the Daily Mail is one of the world’s worst newspapers, but its website is something else entirely.

I have a grudging respect for the team behind the website, as its a slick operation that is as attractive as it is sticky.

My admiration for its content is muted, however, by the fact that it’s responsible for some of the worst hate-filled bile on the internet – although I’ve been told by journalist friends that many Mail journalists hate themselves for the rubbish they have to put out.

This mainly comes from the reader comments, but they’re stoked up by the content and the way it rather subtly plays to its readers’ worst fears and excesses.

The Mail Online’s polls are particularly notorious, constituting absurdly loaded xenophobic or daft Little Englander questions and generally beyond anything any web parody could muster. Here’s a random sample:

Should we give up more power to the EU?
Should immigrants be forced to respect British culture?
Should wheelie bins be scrapped?
Should Prince Charles keep his opinions to himself?
Will Brown’s Iraq inquiry just end in a whitewash?

The Twitter community is fairly diametrically opposed to the Mail’s political outlook, and I’d say it’s generally left-leaning and progressive.

As such the order of the day on Twitter at the moment is supporting democracy in Iran and slating Sarah Palin.

Brilliantly, the Twitter community has also harnessed its own mischievous spirit and predilection for railing against intolerance by mounting a campaign to deliberately skew the Mail Online’s latest polls – its most odious yet.

Daily Mail Online Twitter poll

This particular poll is actually titled ‘Should the NHS allow gipsies to jump the queue’. Normally any such poll should be a red rag to a bull for the Mail’s readership, but the Twitterati are currently responsible for a 93 per cent vote in favour of ‘gipsies’ jumping the NHS queue.

I suppose there’s probably some kind of serious point to be made on this, but I prefer to simply point and laugh.

EDIT: A bit of digging reveals the original article the poll is based on, written by Richard Littlejohn, which contains the following charming sentence:

The actual numbers of proper raggle-taggle, Romany gipsies in Britain is minute.

Most of these ‘travellers’ are Irish tinkers, itinerant scrap-metal merchants, scruffy hippies left over from the 1983 Glastonbury Festival, or dubious waifs and strays from Eastern Europe doing a bit of freelance begging.

It’s not hard to predict the conclusion Mail readers were likely to come to.

Predictably the Mail has taken the poll in question down, but with any luck the severity of the bumming will make the Mail wary about posting such absurd polls in the future.

Then again, maybe not eh?

Stupid Daily Mail muslim poll

Written by Robin Brown

June 19th, 2009 at 3:13 pm