Whenever market research is carried out, you can put money on one of the findings being that readers feel there’s too much crime in their newspaper.
Editors will reply that crime sells newspapers, and that recent newspaper history is littered with the gravestones of projects which involved newspapers being more positive.
Digital analytics tell us that readers love a positive story – especially one which triggers an emotional response in them which leads to them sharing it. And a call to action to do something positive in the face of tragedy is also guaranteed the right response if it’s done well – just ask the Manchester Dogs Home!
But there’s one time of year when good news doesn’t have to fight for its place at the front of the book – it can pretty much guarantee it. Yes, Christmas. The idea of ‘Christmas specials’ – those stories you get off your pad from late November onwards to see your newsroom through Christmas – is alive and well in many newsrooms.
Below are 114 newspaper front pages from the regional press, dated for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I’m sure there are many more weeklies which hit the streets on Monday or Tuesday but it’s Christmas, and there’s beer to be drunk.
There’s also a classic Christmas story about a turkey on the run. See if you can spot it.
A newspaper editor recently told me a story which shocked him. A reporter, looking to make new contacts, rang a community centre run for Eastern European immigrants. The response of this community centre was to say: “Oh no, what’s happened?” The assumption being the paper only rings when bad news is be shared.
If there’s one big lesson for newsrooms to take from 2014 above all else, it’s to pay attention to audience data, especially the data which shows people doing something with a story, such as Facebook sharing. It brings us closer to our audiences, in print and online, more than anything else can.
As the old TV advert for Yellow Pages used to claim, “it’s not just there for the nasty things in life.” The same goes for the local media. And while no journalist would ‘wish it could be Christmas every day’ when it comes to the festive spirit of the Christmas special, it’s hard to deny that focusing on the lighter shades of life within local communities could do us the power of good throughout the year.