Why Facebook has just done regional newsrooms a huge favour

There’s been a lot of talk about changes to the way Facebook surfaces content from pages people choose to like.

Like many things with Facebook and its algorithm, the exact details of what Facebook is doing are never clear – but Facebook is crystal clear about one thing, and that is that it will keep evolving how it chooses which posts to put in front of people to ensure the stuff which is most interesting to them.

In the latest iteration, it appears that fan pages for brands have taken a bit of a hammering, making it less likely that a post you put on your brand page will travel a long way. Marketers claim the latest change means the organic reach of posts – the number of people who see a post, which depends on a number of factors, not least the number of your fans who choose to share it on – has dropped dramatically.

Perhaps the most entertaining kickback from this has been from Eat24, a fast food delivery company, which believes its business is suffering from this latest change. It wrote an entertaining open letter to Facebook complaining it was unfair to their fans:


FOI FRIDAY: Ambulance delays, lack of dentists, data-snooping coppers and dodging conviction for assault


How to dodge a conviction if you assault someone < Brighton Argus

Thousands of criminals including sex offenders, arsonists and violent offenders have avoided conviction.

Sussex Police introduced community resolution in 2011 to deal with low-level crimes.

But The Argus can reveal that the policy has been used more than 11,000 times in the past three years and has even been used in a case of sexual assault against a child.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show it was used 1,200 times to deal with assaults resulting in an injury, and another 1,531 for assaults without injuries.

Struggling to get a dentist? Here’s why < Lancashire Telegraph

CONCERNS have been raised after the number of people visiting hospital for emergency dental treatment tripled in East Lancashire last year.

Staff at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) gave emergency dental treatment to 322 patients in 2013, which was up from 106 in 2012, according to figures obtained by the Lancashire Telegraph through Freedom of Information laws.

The increase mirrored a national trend which health campaigners said was down to a rise in the number of families struggling to afford regular check-ups on their teeth, with visits to the dentist becoming a ‘luxury’ for many.

Left waiting for an ambulance < North West Evening Mail

FIGURES show since 2012 457 patients in Cumbria have waited for an ambulance for more than an hour.

A Freedom of Information request by the Evening Mail showed 69 of the calls were in Barrow, Ulverston or Millom – with 14 in the area classed as serious Red Two calls.

There were two life-threatening Red One calls in Cumbria which took more than an hour to attend.

Pupil compensation claims continue to mount up < Yorkshire Evening Post

Almost a quarter of a million pounds of public money has been paid out in compensation and legal costs for injuries children have suffered in the city’s primary and secondary schools over the past five years, new figures reveal.

Pay outs include £35,000 after a child broke a limb, and £21,058 given to a pupil who suffered a facial injury.

The figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that there been 188 personal injury claims made against schools in Leeds since September 2008.

Of these 39 have been successful resulting in compensation payments of £221,013 since September 2008. Figures show £35,000 was paid out after a pupil suffered a broken limb in 2009 and £21,058 was given to a pupil who suffered a facial injury in 2010.


April Fools Day, as told by the regional press

According to Martha Gill, writing in The Guardian, Twitter has killed April Fools Day. Why? According to Gill, the fact that you see hundreds of brilliant jokes on Twitter, day in, day out, means the idea of a once-a-year occasion to make up funny stories is no longer required.

Bobbins. If anything, social media has made April Fools’ Day all the more important, while ‘the internet’ in general has made it more important for news brands to take on human traits – not least the ability to try and make the audience smile, and laugh with them.

April Fools’ Day is a bond between reader and news provider – the one day of the year the reader will tolerate something completely made up, so long as it’s done for the right reasons. On any other day, that story would be just be made-up fiction, risking the credibility and trust the audience has with that brand.

On April Fools’ Day, however, there’s a licence to be as creative as you want. For regional media, creating an online presence which people want to engage with involves joining in the things the readers are doing online. I think April Fools’ Day will get bigger online for the regional press in the years to come, not least because it removes the dilemma of whether the regional press should indulge in April Fools’ Day at all.


Seen from afar: Tweets which made me think from #rethinkmedia

Birmingham at night….

Last week, Birmingham City University hosted ‘Rethink Media’. It’s always fascinating to follow conferences via Twitter, not least because it saves having to choose which sessions to follow if the organisers have gone for the many option approach.

Following the hashtag #rethinkmedia is never going to be as good as being in the room, although it does increase the chances of being closer to a power socket which you can call your own.

The upside of following a conference or event via Twitter is that you get to hear the opinions which often go through the heads of those in the audience but which don’t get shared during debates for many reasons. The downside is it can sometimes be hard to distinguish what is being said on the stage from the views of people in the audience.

Whether that’s too important, I’m not sure. However, I thought I’d try and stitch together some of the most interesting (to me) Tweets I saw from the event, most of which focus on social. The list isn’t meant to be a compilation of Tweets to document the whole day (you can find the live blog here), just some things which made me stop and think from afar:


Hold the back page! Should sport always be there?

The answer, if you’re the Liverpool Echo, Birmingham Mail or Yorkshire Evening Post is ‘of course!’ But what if you don’t have big clubs like Liverpool Football Club, Aston Villa or Leeds (they still count as a big club, right?) to fill your back page.

I ask the question because, this weekend, I was flicking through a copy of one of my favourite weekly newspapers, The Westmorland Gazette. I’m not sure if it’s because I love the area it serves – the Lake District – or whether it’s because it so clearly feels like it’s part of the community – every time I stay up there, the local hotel or holiday cottage guidebook has a line in telling me to buy it to find out what to do – that makes me like it so much, or whether it’s because it’s actually just a very good newspaper. Which it clearly is.

Anyway, it’s the back page which I always spend the most time reading … and not because of the sport. Because there’s none there:

Westmorland Gazette back page

Westmorland Gazette back page

Not because there isn’t any sport in the area. There is page, and it get great coverage on the pages inside behind the ‘digest’ page which instead gets the back page.


Why emotional reaction should help decide the news stories you write

Did you read the story about the woman who gained hearing for the first time in 40 years thanks medical advances at a hospital in Birmingham?

It’s a story which was made or the more memorable because it came with video, provided by the patient’s family, and broadcast first on the website of the Birmingham Mail:

It was posted on YouTube by the Mail on Thursday and at time of writing (Saturday, two days later), it had clocked up over two million streams, plus hundreds of thousands on the Birmingham Mail’s own player.  It’s been picked up globally, shared

So, apart from showing off at a story on one of the website’s I work with doing so well, why am I writing about it?

Here’s why: The reason this story worked so well is because it triggered an emotional response. It’s one thing to read a story about a medical miracle, which is surely what it is for the lady concerned, it’s quite another to witness it.  And when you have an emotional response to something, you’re more likely to talk about it and share it.

And when half the traffic to that article on the Mail site came from social  media – and the vast majority of that from Facebook – factoring in emotional reaction to a story becomes very important.


FOI Friday: The cost of murder, shoplifting hotspots, firefighter complaints and the return of wrong fuel in cop cars


The cost of Murder – Birmingham Mail

West Mercia Police spend fortune in bid to track down killers and see justice done

A Midland police force has spent more than £2.5 million on just FIVE murder investigations in the last five years.

The cases were the most expensive investigated by West Mercia Police, according to figures obtained by the Sunday Mercury.

The most money spent was £900,000 on bringing three Birmingham killers to justice for the brutal killing of a sub-postmaster in January 2009.

The investigation led to the successful prosecution of the killers of Craig Hodson-Walker, murdered during a botched armed raid.

Top of the shop … lifting hotspots < Manchester Evening News

Primark’s flagship Market Street store has topped a league of shame of Greater Manchester’s shoplifting hotspots.

The Manchester city centre shop called police more than three times a week to report shoplifting offences during 2013.

Figures released to the M.E.N by Greater Manchester Police under Freedom of Information laws detail the locations for more than 14,500 shoplifting offences last year.

Market Street – the city centre’s main shopping hub – was home to three of the region’s top four hotspots for police call-outs for reports of theft.

The crimes being committed on Facebook < Cambridge News

Facebook users have been reported by ‘friends’ to Cambridgeshire police for blackmail, child rape and grooming, as well as death threats.

Users of the social networking site have flagged up 169 possible crimes to officers since 2011.

They range from blackmail to bike theft and harassment to rape, data released by the force has showed.

Also on the Facebook crime list was harassment, intimidating or intending to instil fear in a witness to a crime, fraud, racial hatred, rape of children and threats to kill.


A new perspective on the paywall argument to stop and make you think

Another week, another opinion piece about paywalls. This time from Peter Preston in the Observer, and published on the Guardian website.

Yet it’s not the article which stopped and made me think – it was one of the comments from a reader underneath.

Preston’s column is a summary of the different paywall thinking going on, and the fact that there are various shades of paywalls knocking around the industry at the moment.

He drew no conclusions, but did manage to prompt perhaps one of the most thought-provoking comments on the issue I’ve seen for a good while:



WalterBMorgan, whoever he or she is, disproves a mantra which has been rattling around the regional press for the last 12 months or so that ‘the reader must pay.’

To me, that mantra ignores a basic principle of customer service – and journalism, in many ways, is a customer service industry – and that’s making sure you always listen to the customer.


Perhaps the most important piece of academic journalism research this year

Reading journalism.co.uk at the weekend, I stumbled across a piece of research being carried out by the University of Central Lancashire.

It is being led by Amy Binns, a former Yorkshire Post journalist who is now a senior lecturer at UCLAN (and a former colleague of mine, but more about that in a minute).

The research focuses on online abuse journalists suffer as a result of comment threads being open under stories, and in the often anonymous world of social media, particularly Twitter.

Frustratingly, the survey attached to the study was due to close on Friday (March 14) but at time of writing appears to still be open. I would urge any journalist who is serious about social media and uses it regularly to get involved.

To me, this is potentially the most important piece of academic journalism research this year. A big claim I know, but here’s why.