In today’s Observer, John Naughton has a fantastic rant (his own word) about how [most] people in newsrooms just don’t understand the teenagers who they so wish would buy their papers:
Today’s 21-year-olds were born in 1985. The internet was two years old in January that year, and Nintendo launched ‘Super Mario Brothers’, the first blockbuster game. When they were going to primary school in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee was busy inventing the world wide web. The first SMS message was sent in 1992, when these kids were seven. Amazon and eBay launched in 1995. Hotmail was launched in 1996, when they were heading towards secondary school.
Now look round the average British newsroom. How many hacks have a Flickr account or a MySpace profile? How many sub-editors have ever uploaded a video to YouTube? How many editors have used BitTorrent? (How many know what BitTorrent is?)
And while some of our teenagers’ interests coincide with ours, many do not. Here, for example, are the top blog tags on Technorati last night: Bush, careers, college, comedy, Congress, death, Democrats, elections, Flickr, gay, Halloween, Iraq, Microsoft, money, Republicans, Saddam, Ted Haggard, vote, war, breaking-news, tagshare, YouTube. Some you’ll recognise. But you won’t see much about many of these in the papers.
(A side note: there’s a page which measures whether the BBC is showing us what we want to read about, based on what’s on its top 10 front page headlines and its top ten most read stories. How in touch is the BBC?)
And while you’re digesting that, Roy Greenslade has the question that made Andrew Neil fall silent (praise be! I’ll ask it all the time!):
he did so during a question-and-answer session at the Society of Editors conference when asked about the apparent contradiction between the success of the newsprint Daily Mail and the fact that its owners have been very slow to engage with the internet. When he failed to offer an explanation that satisfied the questioner she pursued her point and he told her he would speak to her privately. That conversation never took place and I understand Neil later described her as “an anorak”.
The answer, as reckoned by Greenslade, turns out to be very interesting. But it still implies that the Mail needs an online strategy – though of course it does. (We’re even slightly jealous of their CMS that lets people comment on each story. Umm.)