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. http://blogs.notw.co.uk/politics/2010/04/battleground-britain-video-reports-from-around-the-uk.html
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.

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