How journalists can beat Facebook’s algorithm (but don’t expect a quick fix!)


Should journalism be fearful of Facebook? Or, indeed, any other platform which has been successful in attracting a large number of people and, crucially, a large proportion of their time spent online?

If the thing getting so much attention banned journalism, or journalists, from existing within the walled garden it had created, and which so many people were happy to spend so much time resident in, then yes, that would be bad news.

But that’s not where Facebook is. It is huge, and can probably lay claim to being the power behind maybe half of the most-used apps in the world. And that could make it dangerous of course, but no more dangerous than anything which is so dominant has the potential to be.  Like a government with a landslide majority and, in theory, the mandate to anything it wants,  Facebook will also know that its strength as a business comes from its dominance, and a dominance it needs to preserve.

That dominance of user time will only continue for as long as it continues to deliver what people want on there, and the prospect of 80% of mobile web time being spent within a cluster of a person’s chosen apps within two years will be focusing minds like never before.


How to report Brexit locally: 15 very different front pages (in my opinion)

brexit newcastle2

Earlier, I shared a collection of regional press front pages from the day after the Brexit vote became known.

I think they showed the relevance of regional print titles to readers, running alongside the live news services and engaging content provided by those titles’ digital operations.

In fact, I suspect many of the regional front pages from Saturday, June 25 were influenced by what newsrooms could see was resonating online, and then applying that knowledge to crafting some of the most important front pages of the year.

Below – in time-honoured online listicle form! – are 15 of the front pages that stood out for me, and why:


Burgers or politics? To be relevant, local newsrooms need to be experts in both


One of the claims frequently made about newsrooms which are seeking to grow the number of people who read their websites is: “Oh, they’re just chasing clickbait now.”

Clickbait, as I’ve written before, appears to cover a very broad church of content, roughly characterised as “Not what we’ve always done in the past.”

A more recent trend amongst journalistic commentators has been to try and contrast two types of journalism, and to argue that the quality of journalism is reducing as a result. Press Gazette – a publication which is no stranger to the changing habits of readers  – recently cited the Nottingham Post liveblogging the opening of a new KFC as proof that journalistic standards were being sacrificed in pursuit of page views.

And last week, the National Union of Journalists leader at Media Wales – home of WalesOnline, the largest Welsh news site around and our fastest-growing website in the regionals stable at Trinity Mirror – turned to the BBC to express his views that serious journalism was being sacrificed in favour of “lifestyle type journalism.”


How the murder of Jo Cox was covered by the regional Press

The murder of West Yorkshire MP Jo Cox – shot and stabbed while in her constituency yesterday – is one of those events which stops you in your tracks. It’s one of those occasions which you’ll always be able to tell people where you were when you heard about it.

In a world of push notifications, email alerts, Facebook statuses and Tweets by the second, the murder of a much-loved MP handed local news organisations two challenges: How to cover a breaking news story sensitively while all sorts of information and suggestions swirled around, and how to deliver details of events in a way which blended fact and emotion the next day.

During ‘breaking news’ events, social media has changed journalism in many ways – but often overlooked now is the mind-boggling amount of reaction and sentiment which is instantly on tap, as well as the facts. Blending that with newspaper design requires skill, sensitivity and a strong understanding of what local readers will respond to.

But before the paper comes the ‘live’ coverage. Regional news websites are increasingly learning to distinguish between different types of audience online. There’s the social media audience, keen to share information from trusted sources, and then there’s the brand-loyal audience, who know to turn to the brand they trust.

Then there’s the audience who want to stick with a site for constant updates, or the reader who may be a loyal regular or who just knows to come to the brand because it’s trust-worthy, who wants a more traditional 300 words and picture to explain what’s happening.

Combine that with the expectation from all sorts of readers that what the local Press covers isn’t just the news but also information – which roads are closed? Are the schools still in lockdown? Will the market be open tomorrow? – and you get a sense of the many considerations which have to be factored in on a minute by minute basis.

There are four local daily papers/websites in West Yorkshire which cover Jo Cox’s constituency – The Huddersfield Examiner, Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post – and all will have known that the next day’s front page didn’t just have to report the news, but also sum up the sentiment and feeling in the area.

All four, in my non-trained eye, did just that:


This glimpse into the future of Academy education from the Liverpool Echo will horrify any journalist


It might look like an office block, but it’s actually an Academy, and one which is giving journalists a glimpse of what an Academy-only future might be like for journalists

For Government, it’s all about devolution at the moment. Even if you put to one side George Osborne’s obsessive Northern Powerhouse proposal, the idea of devolution runs through almost every government department.

The problem, however, is that it appears to be devolution regardless of what the public thinks. At the turn of the decade, there was precious little support for the idea of city or metro mayors, even with the promise of new powers and spending for regions, when it was put to public votes.

The Government’s solution has been to push ahead with devolution anyway – by removing the need for it to have public support. 

And last week came news of perhaps the greatest devolution of all – making all schools become academies. It’s an idea which the trade unions already hate, and the far-left Labour Party of 2016 is sure to fight tooth and nail against (although it’s fair to assume the most effective opposition will come from the select committees and the House of Lords).


Why the leader column is a thing of the past – in one quote

If anything sums up just how much social media has changed the media world, it’s this quote, from the editor of a new national newspaper, which was shared by the Radio 4 Today programme on Twitter:

so true

It’s a great quote from Alison Phillips, the editor of The New Day, which is launched next week by the company I work for, Trinity Mirror.

Successful media organisations in a social media world forge a relationship with readers on equal terms, inviting readers to share views on every aspect of what they do, and not expected readers to put up with a tablet-of-stone-view of the world.

There’s a reason why the man with the forceful opinions in the pub is always looking for someone to talk to at the bar, and the people who are good at listening, laughing and share enjoy good company on a nearby table.


The big thing newsrooms can learn from the i

the i

Many tens of thousands of words have been written about the pending transformation of the Independent into a digital-only product, and the sale of its little brother, the i, to Johnston Press.

Columns and posts by smarter people than me have attempted to answer whether the Independent can thrive in an online world, what Johnston Press will do with the i and what it means for JP’s large stable of regional publications.

I’m not going to attempt to cover any of those, because I don’t really have anything worth saying which hasn’t already been said – and besides, it would be just speculation on my part anyway.

But if there’s one thing newsrooms everywhere should take from the sale of the i, it’s the way i editor Oly Duff has ensured readers have been kept informed since the announcement, and encouraged readers to get involved with a debate about the implications.


Floods: Local newspaper front pages from across the UK



flood todmorden news

For local Press journalists across the North (mainly), the Christmas break has involved putting on wellies and speaking to people who had just watched their homes wrecked by flood water.

Many titles provided a vital service online, mixing latest updates with information in real-time to help people who were living through a real-world nightmare.

In print, the focus was very much on assessing the scale of the impact, with strong photography – from staff, freelance and UGC – coming to the fore.


Three days on, how the regional press made a big statement of solidarity to the people of France

mparis pand j

On Saturday, I shared the print front pages from the regional Press which I could find which related to the tragedy in Paris. Many papers had already passed Friday night deadlines which meant that today’s front pages were the first opportunity to cover the story in print.

The size of the atrocity meant that this is far from ‘old news’, and the scale such that local lines appear to be in abundance, with reaction very visible on streets of towns and cities across the UK.

The front pages represent an interesting mix of stories, ranging from the latest development-style lines you would expect from the traditional morning newspapers through to the big shows of support reported on various titles as buildings were lit in red, white and blue and vigils took place across the city.

As with Saturday’s post, this gallery isn’t offered as a beauty parade, just a way of documenting how the regional media responded to one of the worst terrorist attacks in years.


How the regional press covered the Paris terrorism attacks in print

paris mail222

Front pages around the world were cleared as news of the terror attacks in Paris broke. For many regional newsrooms, it was too late to get the story into Saturday’s papers as they had already gone to press. I’ll cover off how regional papers can serve their readers online when an international story breaks in a later post.

But there were a handful of titles who were still ahead of deadline, or able to call their titles back off the presses, to deliver overnight reports on one of the worst attacks on the public in recent times.

Sunday’s regional papers also, generally, led with events in Paris, with Sunday Life the only one to opt for a splash headline in French, while the Sunday edition of the Western Morning News also carried a headline written in French as its second lead.

I’ve gathered those I could find here, not as a beauty parade of any sort, but to simply record some very powerful front pages. If your title isn’t here but should be, feel free to get in contact.