I’m currently building a new blog that will attempt to draw together some of the narratives discussed on this blog into essays that have a bit more depth, that can start to draw together blog posts into a proper exploration of how the tabloid press functions. One of the key ideas that I want to expand on is that that bad journalism is good business, the tackier the ‘news’ the more website traffic is generated and the more advertising revenue is made by the Daily Mail and others. It is therefore essential that the Daily Mail (the busiest newspaper website) attempts to win the Google search traffic as well as the bemused Internet users who regularly link to Mail articles because they are so ludicrously stupid or offensive (for example the Jan Moir Gately article or any number of Mail articles linking Facebook to cancer / murders / evil people in general and so on).
This means that the Daily Mail is pretty shameless when it comes to content because this is no longer about good journalism, but good traffic. The Daily Mail does not care whether you visit their website to bash your head against the desk at the sheer inanity of its content or the insanity of its comment, or whether you are actually the sort of person who enjoys either. The only thing they do care about is that you do visit. It reminds me of Howard Stern the American ‘shock-jock’ who had a huge audience and when research was done into who listened and for how long it was concluded that people that disliked the show listened far more regularly and for longer periods than fans of the show. The reason given was that people who disliked the show wanted to listen to keep up to date with how offensive he was and be properly outraged.
I can’t help in some ways to see my use of the Mail website – and reading the print edition – in the same way. I read it purely to keep tabs on it, to be outraged and to write about it. However, I would argue that I at least try to do something constructive with my visits; I attempt to correct false stories and draw attention to opinion pieces that I think are offensive but are based on lazy stereotypes or lies. I to compete with the Daily Mail for Google traffic and I hope that when people search on Google for something they heard about through the tabloid press they will find blogs like this at the top of those rankings so they at least have the truth in front of them, even if they choose to ignore it.
Returning to my original point that the Daily Mail is pretty shameless when it comes to content is their use of half-naked female celebrities to drive traffic to the website. They could just be honest and write articles about how Christina Aguilera has a great rack and how they have lots of pictures and a video for you to look at. However, they feel the need to dress up such articles with a turned-up, disapproving nose as if they are merely pointing out how awful such things are:
It’s supposed to be an advertisement for her new fragrance Royal Desire.
But the commercial for Christina Aguilera’s latest perfume looks more like a low budget soft-porn film as the newly-single pop star shows off her curvaceous figure.
Showcasing her ample cleavage in a very low cut dress and writhing in a chair in ecstasy as she sprays the perfume across her chest, the singer’s ad may be a bit too risque for her younger fans.
This attitude can exist for two reasons:
- The Daily Mail is puritanical in outlook (there are probably lots of arguments to support this, however, their content suggests this is not the case).
- The Daily Mail wants to draw in those looking for some semi-naked pics of celebrities whilst at the same time driving the bemused Internet traffic, i.e. people like me and others who perhaps heard about the story on Twitter or Facebook. We visit the webpage to laugh at the irony of the Mail saying how awful semi-naked celebrities are whilst plastering lots of photos and a video around the article.
I think the second reason is very powerful. What the Jan Moir Gately article taught the Daily Mail is that being offensive (or just plain crap) can draw in far more traffic than good journalism. Twitter is a great way of driving traffic to a website, but traffic is only driven to something very good or very crap, the Mail knows it is rarely going to attract the very good traffic but it knows it leads the market in crap content. When it posts an article claiming that Facebook gives you cancer it knows that it will get traffic from Facebook (a massive resource for Internet traffic) users who will share the article pointing out how silly it is – but as above, it does not matter how or why it is shared, only that it is shared and that people click the link. The same goes for the link being shared on Twitter. Someone posts a link to the article saying ‘have you seen this in the Mail? Laughably stupid!’ or whatever, and the link gets clicked on and shared.
We all have a good laugh or a facepalm at how stupid the Daily Mail is, whilst they sit back and count the advertising revenue.
This, ironically, brings me to the reason I started this blog post: have you seen this ‘news’ in the Mail about Charlie Sheen and the porn star? It really is laughably hypocritical: ‘Now Charlie Sheen’s porn star date attempts to cash in… as sordid new details emerge’. The Daily Mail points out that:
Porn star Christina Walsh, who goes by the stage name Capri Anderson, is shamelessly using the incident to promote herself.
They make sure to include her real name and screen name several times throughout the article to ensure they get as much Google traffic as possible, all the while claiming that it is the porn star that is ‘shamelessly using the incident to promote herself’. Indeed, Christina Walsh appears to be responding to the immense media coverage already created by the Mail and other tabloids. Whether she issued a response or not the Mail was always going to print as many follow-up stories as possible to ensure maximum advertising revenue, so she really couldn’t win either way. [As an aside, I always find it amusing that this kind of article always implies that these details arrive in the public domain naturally: ‘sordid new details emerge’. It sounds as if the details have revealed themselves to us, that the Daily Mail has nothing to do with this process. Clearly the Daily Mail is revealing these ‘sordid new details’ and an accurate headline would be: ‘Now Charlie Sheen’s porn star date attempts to cash in… as we publish sordid new details’. Details emerging as if on their own accord is a very Orwellian use of language, and it fools nobody.]
A quick Google search for ‘Christina Walsh’ gets the Daily Mail into the top ten search results twice. However, when searching for her screen name (don’t try this at work) ‘Capri Anderson’ the Daily Mail gets nothing on the first few pages. It seems they still have a long way to go before they can compete with Internet porn. Perhaps one day they will make the editorial decision to embed hardcore tube videos into their articles to really compete in terms of sex traffic.
For now they will just have to be happy with the traffic generated by hypocritical celebrity drivel, insane, offensive columnists and terrible, terrible journalism.