Saturday, September 30, 2006

You are not a contender till you are on Broadcast News

In the last few months, we've seen the print media (especially The Times and The Guardian) push Alan Johnson as a potential contender for Labour leader very hard. The Times in particular had a favourable Alan Johnson puff piece almost every day in the past few weeks. Yet they've had precious little impact on the general public.

Perhaps we pay too much attention to the print media. Their circulation has been falling. According to ABC figures, the average papers bought per day in August 2006 were as follows:

The Guardian 362,844 papers a day
The Times 675,030 papers a day
The Telegraph 898,289 papers a day
The Independent 254,854 papers a day
The Mail 2,381,461 papers a day
The Mirror 1,662,930 papers a day
The Sun 3,223,841 papers a day
Evening Standard 313,181 papers a day

The total is 9,772,430 newspapers sold a day in Britain, out of a population
of 60 million. And the Times and Guardian are among the smaller papers, so don't really have reach. True the readership figures are much larger than the circulation figures, and lots of people now read papers online, but even so, the figures are small.

If you want to make an impact on the public, you need television. Not just any television either - Newsnight, Question Time, The Daily Politics, are niche programs. You need to get onto the BBC early evening news (viewing figures 9.8 million), or News at Ten (about 5.7 million). When there is a crisis, eg the 7/7 bombings, or the airport plot, people are more likely to tune in.

John Reid has been on the news a lot. First his capable handling of the airport crisis, where he was not overshadowed by Blair (who was on holiday) or Brown (who was on paternity leave and doubtless didn't want to step on his colleague's toes). Then the heckler at his speech to the muslim community got him into the news again. I've seen Alan Johnson on the evening news just once (over scrapping Maths GCSE coursework). David Cameron usually gets on for one of his publicity stunts, though his India trip wasn't really covered much. Other Tories and the Lib Dems don't get onto the news at all.

Of course Gordon Brown is on the broadcast news all the time, thanks to his feud with Tony Blair. It's become customary for any coverage of Blair to have a piece on how it will affect Brown. Often the coverage isn't positive (Nick Robinson wouldn't be Nick Robinson if he didn't imply plotting and back-stabbing and intrigue). But perhaps some coverage is better than no coverage at all.


Hughes Views said...

"The total is 9,772,430" - still shed loads more than read even the Great (allegedly) Ian Dale's blog or any other political one!

Political Umpire said...

What is the total of hits on the broadsheets' websites? Is this the reason, or part of the reason, for diminishing circulation of papers?

snowflake5 said...

I understand that The Times online gets 8 million unique hits a month (266k per day) and the Guardian gets 11.7 unique hits per day (390k per day). Which isn't a great deal and many of the hits will be from abroad, especially America.