Until today, it could have been argued that a newspaper’s most powerful tool when seeking to make a point which grabbed attention was the the printed front page. Indeed, I suggested as much last October.
And while it will remain a powerful weapon for newsrooms to deploy when they stand up and fight for their readers, the Birmingham Mail did something rather remarkable today.
It’s best summed up in this tweet from the Press Association:
Now, only Aston Villa will ever know the impact the Birmingham Mail’s decision to call for Villa manager Paul Lambert to be sacked had on the club’s decision to remove Lambert from his post. But, watching from afar today, the coverage demonstrated that a news brand can be every bit as powerful online in making a demand as it can dispatching an opinion-led front page to the press hall.
A 2-0 defeat at Hull was the final straw for many Villa fans last night … but given the club had clung on to Lambert despite going more than 10 hours without a goal prior to the defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, would the fans reaction make the difference?
The Mail took the decision which many editors have have wrestled with over the years – and came out demanding that Lambert be removed by the club early this afternoon.
At the time of writing, there are more than 100 comments on the Mail’s first article, hundreds of shares of Facebook posts and thousands of comments via Facebook … and one chap who has posted his rewording of Bohemian Rhapsody to express his views on Lambert.
But seriously, this was a great example of the difference a news brand can make when it gets off the fence and makes an opinion known – and is prepared to be a lightning rod for those who have a view on the issue.
It isn’t the first time we’ve seen this approach working online. The Manchester Evening News generated 40,000 signatures in two days to stop funding cuts to the science museum in the city, while the Newcastle Chronicle used social to ask fans for a headline relating to Alan Pardew and ended up with this belter:
But if there’s one big takeaway for newsrooms everywhere, it’s that if you get your social media approach right, your voice will be far stronger.
Examples like this:
And this one too:
Like a great front page which makes you stop and stare, a great social post is critical to make a point quickly and clearly – and hopefully drive someone to press share too.
But what made the Mail’s approach even stronger was the use of fan-generated material on its site almost as soon as it broke its opinion piece through a rolling live blog of fan reaction:
Then there’s the insight from Villa writer Gregg Evans who says the club kept saying Lambert would get until the end of the season. Something clearly changed … was it the Mail? Was it the inspired decision to run a live blog lasting 90 minutes from 7.55pm highlighting the reasons why Lambert must go? When you think of the genius which lies behind great campaigning front pages and think about the creative approach to a live blog here it becomes clear they share a lot in common – just on different platforms.
Who knows what triggered Villa’s decision – but today is proof that when newsrooms are prepared to put out an opinion, build their focus around social, chuck as much creativity at presentation of content and show people they are listening to what they are saying, those newsrooms can make just as much of an impact online as they can with a brilliant front page.
And all that was done between print editions…