Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Gordon Brown gaffe: calls old lady a bigot

Gordon Brown has committed the first big leaders' gaffe - calling an old lady a "bigot".

This one will run all day but the choice Labour spin doctors must now make is whether to apologise and apologise again; or try and hang the old lady out to dry; portraying Gordon as a sort of racial equality champion.

Either options spells trouble - Gordon Brown will lose further ground in the polls because of this.

Disaster for Labour.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Election media special: Sophy Ridge, Consumer and Political Correspondent, News of the World

The 2010 General Election has so far stood out for its 24/7 digital media coverage. To find out more, I have spoken to Sophy Ridge, Consumer and Political Correspondent with the News of the World, to find out how the News of the World is using social media to engage its readers in the 2010 General Election. Here's what Sophy had to say:

Q) The News of the World election Blog is noticeable for its social media integration. 

It seems to be designed to make the election accessible to the voter. Can you tell me a bit more about the decision to cover the election in this way?

People are engaging with politics on many different platforms – whether that’s via Twitter, Facebook, internet blogs or TV debates. We wanted to reach out to a whole different section of politically-active people who may not read newspapers but are still switched on and want to find out more about the election. By linking our coverage on Twitter, Facebook and the News of the World blog – as well as our newspaper coverage – we’re maximising the number of people reading our content. Plus I personally am very excited with the way social media has changed the way people interact with politicians and journalists.

Q) The Mums’ Manifesto is obviously right at the heart of the election campaign. Why has Netmums become so important to politicians?

Every year there is a group of voters identified as the “Holy Grail” who will decide the outcome of the election – whether Mondeo Man or Worcester Woman. This year politicians are scrambling to attract the votes of Britain’s mothers.
They’re the ones who have really felt the brunt of the credit crunch – whether it’s rocketing petrol and supermarket bills or the devastated job market – and they’ve also got big views on things like class sizes.

Q) Have you found the Mums to be a tough sell for the politicians? 

 I think politicians often see “mums” in quite a patronising way. Many of them underestimate what Netmums will quiz them about in these webchats – they think it’s all going to be about soft subjects. But actually Netmums members are experts in the complicated benefits system because they are the ones who are pouring over the intricacies of everything from tax credits to the Tory marriage plans – because an extra £40 a month means a lot to how they juggle their bills. So they are an incredibly tough sell and it’s impossible for politicians to pull the wool over their eyes.

Q) You’ve been on the road producing video diaries for Facebook on the campaign.
Who, at this stage, has impressed you the most and why?

I think it’s important to stay neutral as a journalist. But as a newspaper, we have decided to back the Tories.

Q) Do you think the TV debates will tell voters anything new?

The important of the TV debates has already been demonstrated –the Lib Dems have taken the lead in the polls for the first time in a century! Everyone thought the TV debates would have some influence, but I don’t think anyone realised quite how much. However, Thursday’s debate could change all that because this time David Cameron and Gordon Brown will be gunning for Nick Clegg. He had an easy ride last time.

Q) Finally, what reaction has the News of the World had to its interactive election coverage? Have your readers responded well? 

Our readers have responded incredibly positively to our interactive coverage. However – best of all – many other people have started engaging with the News of the World’s coverage for the first time.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Twitter and the Leaders' debate

Well, the first Leaders' debate was spellbinding television, a true moment of history. I had the pleasure of spending it with hundreds of people from all sides of the political spectrum on Twitter.

Apparently there were over 100,000 tweets during the debate and this is evidence that for real time media, Twitter is King.

Tweets seemed to verge between the comic and the serious, most people on my feed approaching the debate with a cynical eye on how staged managed it was but, crucially, the response was that the debate was a success.

It's best out of three so no winner, but as this stage (out of 5) I would give: Clegg 3.5, Brown 3 and Cameron 3. All to play for.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

50 economists sign letter backing Gordon Brown's economic plans

Apparently 50 economists have signed a letter backing Labour's plans for the economy:

This tat for tat game of 'my expert is bigger than yours' is getting rather tiresome. I wonder what impact, if any, it is having on voters?

My guess is they care more about their own family finances and unless politicans can find a way of demonstrating how their policies can ease some of this financial strain, then the game of economic tennis will prove fruitless in the long term context of the election.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Financial Times stikes deal with Foursquare

This week saw the FT strike a deal with Foursquare to allow people to check in and unlock its pay wall


For me, this shows how it's not just brands who needs to find a way of operating within exisitng social media platforms, it's the media too.

Although all the major media have a presense on the leading platforms, very few have matched brands in finding innovative ways to engage potential readers (and therefore customers) in the way brands have.

I think media marketing teaams have been lazy in this respect.

If you are the Times, about to get a shiny new paywall, your social media strategy must be geared towards increasing entry into your paywall and boosting revenue streams.

Simply being on Facebook, or having a Twitter feed, isn't enough to deliver new, unique  and paying users; and by new I mean online consumers who would otherwise not think of visitng a website.

By looking to creative partnerships with social media platforms - and even brands - British media can get away from the 'free DVD on Sunday' approach and seek to engage consumers in the same way as the biggest brands have done successfully.

So, well done, FT. Let's see some more of this type of innovation.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

General Election 2010 and the Media

We are nearly a week in so I've decided to do a synopsis of some of the main GE2010 coverage to date, and where I think the most innovative journalism is happening.

The much maligned BBC website continues to strike fear into the heart of newspapers everywhere with a dedicated GE2010 micro site, complete with up to date, minute by minute news feed incorporating tweets. This is a strong addition to the BBC's already excellent blogs, with Nick Robinson and the team blogging with the gusto of a Government in Waiting. Verdict: Excellent start for the Beeb BUT they must not drop the ball with the leaders' debates.

Sky News
Sky has gone for strength in numbers, utilising their large budgets for live camera pieces throughout the day with heavyweights Adam Boulton and Kay Burley working almost 24/7 it would seem. The production is slick but the coverage is, in my opinion, let down by the sensationalism - the yellow 'breaking news' bar is at time cringe worthy. Unlike the BBC and ITV, SKY News has nothing to lose with the leaders' debates and I expect it the production to be the slickest and most American in style.

The third channel on the remote has struggled to keep pace with the social media integration of BBC and Sky and isn’t leading on many stories at present. The news team needs a big exclusive from the election soon to make up ground.

News International (minus Sky)
The Times has produced the solid coverage you would expect of it but the website remains in a league behind the Telegraph and Guardian. The Sun has already taken the scalp of one Scottish Labour candidate and led the debate on the use of Twitter by politicians. News of the World has produced an excellent series of Facebook videos and a dedicated NOTW GE2010 Facebook fan page. This is making politics more accessible to young voters and the videos are updated on a constant basis. Along with the aforementioned SKY production, there is no arguing with James Murdoch's focus on this election.

The Guardian
Highlight has been the balance of opinion and commentary, emphasised by the excellent GE2010 pull out on the first day of the official campaign. Website combines humour and commentary well and the grand old paper will continue to balance the right wing views of the Mail and company.
The Mail
Middle England's voice has backed Cameron's moves on National Insurance and Marriage Tax Breaks but has also focused on the micro battles of local councils - mainly as a vehicle to discuss the worries of the large swing vote outside London. Within this, they have already launched campaigns on the usual grounds of immigration and expect more of the same from the Mail:

Up there with the Guardian for social media and website content, the Telegraph has succeeded with some great blogs from Charles Moore and Robert Moore amongst others. Strongest business coverage outside the FT.

Twitter has been electric since the start of the campaign, fed by the Tory masters Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie. Their battle against the many Labour MPs and candidates has been fierce and no holds barred - witness the Labour campaign to #sackgrayling and the sacking of the Scottish Labour candidate who proved too many tweets do make a...

Some excellent tweets and blogs from Paul Waugh have seen the ever improving new look Evening Standard cement its place alongside the nationals. Guido Fawkes has been a consistent thorn in Labour's side - as you would expect. The John Prescott team have taken his traditional battle bus tour and combined it well with social media, epitomised by some very funny tweets and coverage from Aintree racecourse.

This isn't an exhaustive audit but it's clear that the media have embraced the challenge of the 'digital election' and are providing voters with a veritable feast of political news and opinion.

For me, the biggest challenges will now come with the next unknown area and that is, of course, the three leaders' debates on BBC, ITV and Sky. Worries over format and scripts have been voiced and if they are not addressed, the shouts of #stagemangedelection could become louder and cause problems for all three main parties in the latter weeks of the election.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Darling must continue to stand firm over NI

The Chancellor has shown impressive resilience over the past 10 days as business leaders, trade unions, journalists and economists have attacked his plan to increase NI contributions for employers and employees alike.

The Government messaging over this period has been consistent; despite the pressure he (Darling) must be under to give the public a carrot to accompany this stick.

When any organisation decides to make a change which could have a negative effect on some of its audiences, it is of vital importance that decisions are made and stuck to. Only then can the conviction behind the messaging penetrate a hostile debate.

In politics, however, it is often all to easy to flip-flop and backtrack. The public are wary of New Labour especially for this - characterised in the genius first episode of The Thick of It.

So, as sceptical voters look for truth behind the spin can the Chancellor's resilience appeal more to voters searching for honest decisions on reducing deficits, than even respected businessmen like Sir Stuart Rose?

If I were the opposition parties I would carefully look at how voters react to the brickbats heading Mr Darling's way as the public are proving difficult to predict in this, the recession election - hence the ever changing polls, as reliable as a builder's free estimate.