Facebook’s challenge to journalists: Make your work shareable to be successful


Facebook’s latest algorithm changes came into view last Friday. Posted late in the evening UK time, the social network said it was going to using data from a tiny sample of users via surveys to help determine what everyone else saw in their feed.

The idea, claims Facebook, is to make the news feed ‘fundamentally human.’ Basing big decisions on the feedback of around 1,000 users via a survey when Facebook has such a vast volume of user data at its disposal seems a very odd decision, and Facebook runs the risk of making the mistake so many publishers have made over the years.


Audience metrics = clickbait? Roy Greenslade (and others) couldn’t be more wrong…



I’d have sent this on email but when I’ve emailed in the past I never get a reply. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, as there can be many reasons for this, but something you wrote earlier this week struck me as so wrong that I felt compelled to write.

Your belated post on Monday offering your take on the discussion around audience goals within the company I work for, Trinity Mirror, was as I would have expected, but way off beam in many respects. It certainly doesn’t back the reality of the trial we carried out at the Manchester Evening News. But we’ve found a way forward with the NUJ which everyone is committed to making work, so I’m not going to talk about that.

It was more this comment at the end of your post:

The reality is that measuring journalists’ worth by how many hits their articles receive and/or how many articles they write is far too crude a way of assessing both their input and their output.

Editors know that well enough. Managers, too often, do not. They must accept that journalism based on a clickbait culture is, ultimately, worthless.

You aren’t the only media academic/commentator to keep peddling the line that journalists who take into account what is popular online must therefore be clickbait merchants.


11 ways to cover flooding from the regional press

Last week was a week the regional press can be proud of. Coverage of flooding which hits northern part of the UK proved how invaluable the local Press can be to local readers.

For national news, it at times felt like a spectacle to be reported on,  or an opportunity to show just how far someone will go to appear in front of camera on location.

For local newsrooms, it was more serious than that. Lives being turned upside down, communities rallying to help one another and people looking for a reliable, ever-present source of latest news and advice.

I’ll blog on what we learnt about online news from the floods next week. For now, though, I wanted to share 11 front pages which sum up some of the differing ways the regional press stood out on the shelves, and in the process stood alongside readers.


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.


Digital Journalism Trends in 2016: Why audience engagement holds the key to a thriving future


100k people read articles about how to cook a turkey on Trinity Mirror’s regional news sites. Listening to what readers want and then delivering it will define strong newsrooms in 2016

Audience engagement is one of those phrases which makes a lot of eyes roll. ‘Just let us get on with the journalism’ is one response I’ve heard a few times.

It’s an understandable response, but if there is one thing which is going to determine the winners from the losers in the brand race to be relevant online in 2016, it’s the ability to engage with audiences.

Journalism needs to take its cue from how audiences react and respond to what we do – and find ways to get the audience to engage with what we know they need to know.

It isn’t going to be enough to say ‘look, we’ve been here for 150 years, you know you can trust us.’ In many ways, digital pushed the reset button on the ability of publishers to call on their heritage as a reason for being, offering new publishers the chance to compete on an equal footing for the attention of readers.

But what does audience engagement mean?


FOI: The council which wants the power to determine what is ‘lazy journalism.’ Really

If you believed many of the public sector submissions to the Government’s Freedom of Information review, this country is blessed with a public sector which is passionate about transparency but gets bogged down by FOI being abused by people who just want to waste time.

And, you know, we’ve got budget cuts, so something needs to give, so how about you just trust us to be open with people. 

That sums up the thrust from many councils. Some, like Manchester City Council, want to see the cost limit on FOI requests reduced, thus keeping more information secret.

Others, like Newcastle, even propose a geographical limit. That’ll be the Local FOI for Local People Act, then.


The long and short of shorthand is this: It’s useful, but not proof you can be a journalist in 2015


Perhaps the greatest challenge regional journalism faces is attracting the right new recruits to the industry.

Make no mistake, we work in a challenged industry. But to ensure there is a future for that industry, the industry needs to make itself attractive to people with the right skills and ideas.

Increasingly, that means recruiting people from non-traditional backgrounds. Some of the smartest, brightest, sharpest people I’ve interviewed for jobs in recent years haven’t followed the ‘traditional’ route into journalism.


DIGITAL JOURNALISM TRENDS IN 2016: Why it’s time for journalists to climb off the fence

This is the third in a series of posts between now and the end of the year looking at key themes I think will emerge during the course of 2016. The first, about social journalism, can be found here, while the second, about the battle for access to information, can be found here. 

Back in April, Jeff Jarvis took to the stage at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, and declared: “To hell with mass media.” Or rather, that was the name of his speech.

The substance was more subtle than that. Jarvis argued that the days of mass media being a thing which set the news agenda and which people had to turn to for their information were long gone.

Instead, for journalism to succeed in the future, journalists need to build closer connections with their readers and be useful to those readers as well.  For that to happen, argued Jarvis, journalists need to be prepared to become activists if the need arises.

You can hear the full audio here:

It’s a sentiment which, at first, seems so far removed from journalism as we know it. But I also believe it’s a journey we have to go on during 2016 if we are to remain relevant to readers.

Is it possible to become more vocal while at the same time staying true to the principles of journalism? I believe so – indeed I believe it’s essential.


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.