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Thursday 21 May 2020

Press Heading For Early Oblivion

As those treating addiction keep telling their prospective clients, before the treatment has to come the admission that they have a problem. It is an admission that those running our free and fearless press are still unable, or unwilling, to make. As a result, their addiction to a model which is trying desperately to extract money out of businesses whose circulation, and advertising revenue, are in freefall, continues unabated.
The Coronavirus pandemic could, even should, have brought a moment of reflection, an acceptance that this addiction could be terminal, and sooner rather than later. But instead, the Government with whom the deal had been done was used to carry on as before, while screwing We The People for tens of millions in guaranteed advertising - or, to put in another way, public subsidy. It won’t be enough. The rot has now set in.

Fewer and fewer actual newspapers are being sold. The trend is well established, but the lockdown has accelerated the decline into a death slide. Meanwhile, more and more titles face an uncertain future: with the Barclay Brothers’ empire beginning to teeter, the Telegraph titles are looking for a buyer. The Murdoch press is dependent on Creepy Uncle Rupe; when he shuffles off, it may not be worth the candle to his successors.
So no-one should have been surprised at this morning’s news from Jim Waterson at the Guardian. “Print newspaper sales figures are supposed to be out today. But following industry representations, they no longer have to be made public. The monthly ABC sales charts have also been stopped permanently as they give ‘stimulus to write a negative narrative of circulation decline’”. Or, as most people would call it, reality.

There was more. “News UK's The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times confirm they won't make their print figures public (Entirely coincidentally pre-Covid this was due to be the month the Sun lost its title as UK's biggest selling newspaper after 40+ years to Daily Mail. Now we’ve ... no idea)”. So we can assume the Sun and Mail are neck and neck.
On to those who were prepared to admit the reality of their plight: the Mail is just short of 950,000 daily sales. Assuming the Sun is there or thereabouts, this marks the first time that no UK paper moved a million copies a day. Both titles’ Sunday stablemates will be selling fewer copies even than the dailies. We are looking at the endgame.

Yes, these titles exercise influence via their online presence, but it isn’t enough to sustain them in the long term. Nor is it enough to sustain the army of obscenely overpaid hacks and pundits for whom those at the bottom of the journalism pile are going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice: more furloughs and redundancies are now inevitable.
It wasn’t at all flippant of Aaron Bastani to assert “If newspapers won’t publish their circulation figures then the BBC, a publicly funded organisation, shouldn’t review their front pages every morning and evening. It’s in the public interest to know the reach of these papers, otherwise paper reviews are just free advertising”. Dead right it is.

The paper reviews need to stop, unless they can be conducted by those not captured by the press establishment. Circulations are vanishing, and they will vanish that much more rapidly when readers figure out that the press’ urging of ending the Covid-19 lockdown was to save their own skins, and not for the benefit of those readers.
Many of the readers will join the litany of new infections after their morning papers suggested there was nothing to worry about and that a day at the seaside was OK. Some of them won’t be coming back at all. Their families will not take long to add two and two, figure out that the answer is four, and turn their back on the press for good.

There might even be the odd class action lawsuit - just to assist a few titles’ journey from this world into the next. Nor will the future be any rosier for any new media outlets that have hitched their wagon, overtly or otherwise, to that of the press. There are going to be a lot of people having to figure out other ways to keep themselves in the style to which rather too many of them have become accustomed. Like finding themselves a real job for once.

As our alleged Prime Minister’s most admired predecessor might have put it, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.
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Anonymous said...

I relish the day when all those Murdoch/Rothermere gobshites are fucked off.

Pity their employers won't be joining them.

Unknown said...

I can only hope that I live long enough to see them all go out of business... that would be a heppy, happy day indeed!

Caedite eos - novit enim Deus qui sunt eius (kill them all - for the Lord God will know his own)

Anonymous said...

Look forward to the day the self righteous, self centred, self absorbed and selfish so and sos are on the dole.

grim northerner said...

What's replacing them is even worse though, be careful what you wish for.