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Friday 25 July 2014

Richard Desmond’s Zombie Newspapers

My B Bro Baby And The Show’s Killer Curse” leers the Daily Star this morning, tempting readers with an “exclusive”. But the fayre is as unappealing as ever: there is no baby, nor any killer curse, just the usual prurient attempt to leverage interest out of an increasingly tired reality TV format. A front page lead cobbled together from a phone call and a few readily available photos.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Sister paper the Daily Express is no better: basically, it’s telling its dwindling readership that the weather will be generally warm and dry today, and that these conditions may recur in the days and weeks ahead. A widely available photo is included for a little novelty value. Welcome to the world of Richard Desmond’s press empire, of zombie titles, of dead newspapers walking.
The Express and Daily Star titles began to shed jobs more or less from the point that Desmond walked through the door: he famously had the Express’ investigations team sacked because he didn’t know what they did. Anyone might wonder why an intelligent man didn’t take a moment to find out. Sub-editors were dismissed en masse; only the short-term bottom line seemed to matter.
All of Des’ titles have been effectively devoid of original journalism for years now. The Daily Star recycles sleb tittle-tattle and PR, occasionally venturing into the realm of creative invention to pad out the paper. The Express exists on a diet of invented EU scare stories, migrant scares, weather scares, property price and pension scares, and cruelly hoaxing its ageing readership with tales of miracle cures.

Much of that is obtained through churned over PR fodder, press releases, quack weather forecasters, and creative exaggeration. But the papers make a profit, and, as that is all that matters to Des and his money men, all is well. Except that he now wants to make even more money out of the operation, and so is reducing the headcount at his titles from around 650 to 450.

Have a think about that: the Express and Daily Star are already run on a shoestring. The amount of original journalism is so small as to be undetectable. As the unions have rightly pointed out, those papers were used systematically and shamelessly to promote Channel 5 when Des owned it. That promotion has helped him to trouser £450 million from its recent sale to Viacom. He paid just over £100 million.

But who would want to buy the Express or Daily Star titles? Anyone with suitably deep pockets would be going digital from day one, or looking elsewhere. Remember, the Daily Express once sold four million copies a day. Its journalism was respected and feared in equal measure. Now it is one of Desmond’s zombie titles, a joke newspaper, its readership slowly dying off and no salvation in sight.
But it’s making Dirty Des a profit, so that’s another Benchmark Of Excellence!

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