Hi, I'm Ben Hazell. I used to blog here about the media, but now I work there I don't write here anymore.
I'm the Web Publishing Editor at - I find better ways to tell stories, developing tools, training and practice for journalists.

You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, LibraryThing, Spotify, and occasionally writing on

The Blog

Rarely updated now, used during Journalism MA at the University of Sheffield.

Greatest Hits

Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Was this the greatest newspaper frontpage of 2007?

It has everything last year’s tabloid newspapers could have possibly wanted on the cover.

We've got Maddie, Di, an X Factor contestant, allegations of rigged phone-in competitions, and the lead story combines sex and football.
It's nearly perfect.

I bet they just wished they had a slightly saucier picture to replace the cop with a crate. A silhouette of the girl, or a flash reflecting off the tinted window of a Bentley as a Man U star flees the scene. Maybe if 'Girl No.2' had been Heather McCartney or a minor pop-star - that would have been the perfect front page. But hey, it's not quite fiction, so they can only work with the news that's there. This is the one day they pulled together all the greatest hits of 2007.

I'd really like to see their daily sales figures, and see if any of the above elements are known to pull more readers. Do pictures of Diana really still sell papers? Is there a percentage circulation boost for each of those elements? Add 5% for a shot of the McCanns, 3% for a reality TV exclusive.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Daily Express featured both Maddie and Di on the front page about four times a month in the second half of last year. We've all seen it. There must be some sort of sales spike to justify that. These are ongoing stories which the tabloid editors deem to be of the highest public interest, but it's absurd to think that developments merit front-page attention as often as they get it. A cycle of demand develops with such stories where the media is always promising more to an insatiable audience. And it's sometimes hard to judge where the demand starts. Are some stories just so appealing to the media that they get built up out of all proportion and take on real significance? Editors decide which tragedies they can work with, who needs bringing down or who's attractive enough, and they push it on us.

The Sun has a whole area of its website dedicated to Maddie news, in the same way other papers cover Education, or Entertainment. The Express has a 'Diana Inquest' section, right between 'Scottish' and 'Sport' on the main menu, and 'Diana Inquest' banners all over the site to point you there. They're pushing their biggest draw. The papers have detailed statistics about readers on their websites, so they know exactly what their readers want to see more of and they move to provide it.

This might all seem obvious to anyone with an eye on the media, but I find it useful to keep going back to news sources I wouldn't normally use, and discovering this afresh.

News is a commodity; it's a product that you sell to survive.

I could easily get carried away with the higher ideals of reporting, but I'd never get very far.

So whilst I read heart-wrenching accounts from Burma this year, and some papers led with powerful and innovative info-graphics about climate change, it's the Sun that sold the most news. Front-pages like the above will never go away and will always be successful because they meet the demand. I might not like it, but I can't forget it.


Peter said...

The only thing missing would be something whiny about immigrants, or maybe something about the EU. Or something about political correctness perhaps?

A good showing, but there are still greater front pages to be made. I doubt it'll happen in our lifetime, but you never know...

FC said...

What about "our lads" fighting those asian types?

With 3.5 million papers a day it's the biggest selling rag - and like every most-popular-of-its-class it has to strike the centre of the bell curve to feed the masses, generally acknowledged as being asses. The sun - tabloids overall - are the mechanically reclaimed meat of the printing world - scraping the barrel - and lives of all manner of celebrities - apart for another 100,000 sales. Damn them, damn them all!


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