METROBLOG: Real Time Newsprint: St. Jude’s a bitch isn’t he?

I find stuff like this interesting because I’m a nerd for journalistic technique and if you don’t it probably means you have a life but get this:

Last night the MET office issued a severe weather warning saying there would be the worst storm the UK has seen in three years….or five years….or since 1987 depending on which news outlet that misheard the story you happened to be reading. Following that, most of the UK’s train companies issued a statement to the effect that all services would be cancelled between midnight and 9AM. So the free paper for commuters the Metro had quite an interesting route for its Monday morning edition open to them. The morning paper for the trains is specifically meant to be designed for the harrassed commuting office worker and now they had a glaringly obvious real life issue that would affect their readers that they could print about to try and make themselves seem relevent to their target audience. And boy did they go for this one:

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Since I went in to the station at 9AM and found a note scrawled by rail staff saying the 9AM limit on trains had been pushed back to 11 and found about twelve commuters that had bothered to hang around I also found the pile of copies of the Metro virtually untouched. Now I’m at home writing this blog and this copy of the Metro is precisely what I’ve been saying this paper should be since the beginning because they’ve themed almost every article in their opening few pages around weather and commuter misery and transport. How awesome is that?

This showed that in the age of instant smartphone updates, print media can still actually have some relevence to its audience as they go about their lives. The morning paper for London commuters is meant to be a comforting read. You’re depressed that about a fifth of your income goes on actually getting to work, you might have work problems or are just finding it hard to wake up, the morning paper is meant to socialise you again at that time of day. The only problem is printing media takes time and tailoring it to your audience even more effort to broaden your scope as there are quite a lot of people that could potentially read this. Yet here they had a firm warning for something that would affect commuters’ lives so they could tailor their news to be able to talk to commuters about their problems in real time and that front page article is so conversational in tone I’d say its exactly the sort of front page the Metro should be printing. If it was any other newspaper I’d complain it shouldn’t be front page news but here its highly relevent to their target audience.

So that got me thinking: why stop at the weather? The morning paper could speak to the reader about their daily life and act as that socialising comfort on a regular basis. The life of your average commuter is very bland and generic, you can’t get out of audience tailoring just because there’s a lot of them; life working in London isn’t thaaaat different for most people. Example, here is a list of keywords I regularly come across in my daily life as a london office worker:

Rail, travel, weather, coffee, underground, office, chair, desk, computer, wages, expenses, invoice, spreadsheet, meeting, email, logistics, lift, notes, folder, filing, minutes, accounts, lunch break, kettle, enquiry, phone call, numbers, calculator, etc

Most of these words could potentially apply to just about anyone.

So what you could easily do is construct a piece of news print that can speak to thousands of people but appear to be personal to them as they’re reading it which would be quite extraordinary and seriously unlike any piece of print media you would ever read. Just stick a few more keywords into this and you’ve basically got: PAPER FOR COMMUTERS. You can relate to their lives and go “Yeah your life is boring but here’s some interesting stuff we found on the internet” Its what the Metro’s really for but I just feel they could make their stories more personal. For example this is the front page for my fictional paper that speaks to commuters in real time:

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Staring into Justin Bieber’s Arse: Celebrity Gossip and the News

Currently a long way off from the eventual position in his tale of rise to fame and fall to wanking off international businessmen for pennies in alleyways (don’t kid yourselves, that’s where he’s headed), Justin Bieber is all over the press at the moment having a very public mid-life crisis.

The paper I read on the way to work in the morning, The Metro, was one of probably all the papers to print snapshots of Justin Bieber’s arse as he was prepared for a strip-search at an airport. I’m not going to print the picture here because unlike the editors of the Metro; I understand that my target audience doesn’t want to see Justin Bieber’s arse at the best of times let alone the worst of times, like say the morning commute to work or when a loved one’s died of thrombosis.

However people do give a shit that Justin Bieber’s arse is displayed prominently for us to gawp at. There must be call for it because it’s there. Surely that’s how it works?

Someone saw Justin Bieber’s arse and thought: “If I take a picture of this, I could sell that picture to every single media outlet in the world. Just think, Justin Bieber’s arse will make me money. When I’m sat down to dinner with the wife and kids, I will literally be eating on Justin Bieber’s arse”.

……I’m very sorry for that mental image.

The question is how much do people really care? You’re still going to end up reading the paper whether Justin Bieber’s arse and other wank about celebrities is printed in it or not. Celebrity gossip magazines cater for people that gasp “ermegerd! Nicki Minaj ate a sandwich!” or “WTF? Kate Moss has a weird pimple on her bum!” Why is it printed in a newspaper?

Well a newspaper is there to cater for not just news, but a plethora of daily activities the reader might be interested in; TV, relationships, sport etc. It’s all based on speculation as to what their target audience will find compelling enough to direct their eyeballs at for thirty seconds. As I just said though, people that care when a celebrity gets their bum out are already catered for by specific publications and would probably rather spend their time with what they believe are more important things than reading a newspaper. Like eating snails, farting and stuff like that, I don’t know what people that don’t read newspapers do.

What I’m basically saying is that Paparazzism and newspapers don’t really mix. I am all for newspapers talking about shit that doesn’t really matter as opposed to depressing you, like say printing an article about a puppy getting stuck in an air vent over some Middle Eastern peace treaty. However a publication mixing celebrity gossip with actually important bits of news doesn’t really work logically.

Is it in aid of making people who don’t care about the news aware that important shit is happening whether they care or not as they’re flicking through to the juicy bits? Or maybe it’s the other way around, maybe it’s trying to make me, a man who really doesn’t give a shit what celebrities do in their spare time aware of what they do for reasons that currently elude me. There must be a reason these two completely unrelated areas are mixed together in Newspapers without any attention paid to news and celebrities being two separate areas of interest.

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Maybe it matters just as much that I, a person that cares about news, sees unimportant celebrity gossip as someone who doesn’t care about news sees the news alongside the celebrity gossip. Maybe it’s there to foster harmony between those that care about news and those that care about celebrities because these two things really are polar opposites. Maybe it’s all in aid of helping us all get along…

…or maybe its because newspaper editors are vapid cretins who just see Justin Bieber’s arse and think “people are fucking retards, of course they want to see famous people’s backsides”…that’s probably it.

So what have learnt from Justin Bieber’s arse? That whoever published the thing you’re reading thinks you’re stupid. Justin Bieber might as well have painted the words “DERP DI DERP” on his underwear. Then the message would have been clear and I wouldn’t have bothered writing this.

Have a nice day.