Trinity Mirror has rolled out ‘click targets’ to their Daily Post publication, prompting a reiteration of concern from the National Union of Journalists and other commentators.
Yesterday Trinity Mirror, who own and operate local media stalwart the Daily Post title rolled out their ‘Connected Newsroom’ through Cheshire and North Wales amongst other areas of the UK.
Back in June further detail was outlined of what this means in practice, with the line in the internal memo sent in Birmingham at the time stating: “The days are long gone when we could afford to be a paper of record and dutifully report everything that happened on our patch” creating the most uproar.
Yesterday an industry website reported on the news, along with concerns from the National Union of Journalists over job losses and the individual targets.
The NUJ statement (readable in full here) says: “We are extremely concerned by the potential implications of setting individual click targets for journalists. At its worst, this could encourage reporters to sensationalise stories, to trivialise the news and make news out of trivia, and to give up on more challenging, public interest journalism that takes time to research and deliver.”
“We want firm assurances from Trinity Mirror, backed up by a detailed written agreement, that the group remains committed to quality journalism and that it has no intention of dumbing down its output. The trust built up with communities over many years will evaporate quickly if we abandon their concerns in favour of generic, celebrity-focused ‘click bait’.”
Detail on the plans back in June on the new processes stated that journalists would ‘be assessed regularly, taking into account audience traffic to your content and therefore encompassing page views, unique users, local audience and other metrics’.
A job descriptions analysed also stated: “You will be expected to grow your page views and uniques in line with the growth we require as a business.”
In related local media news the BBC have announced this week that they are looking at creating around 100 journalist roles to cover local government and court reporting, perhaps to head off criticism ahead of its Charter renewal. Content created by these reporters is due to be shareable, so local titles would be able to use it as well as their own versions. This has had a mixed reception, with some welcoming the extra local oversight however others enquiring if this will mean more journalism jobs under threat due to the duplication of coverage.
In a recent commentary article by Gareth Hughes the precarious nature of public broadcasting in Wales is mentioned alongside national budgetary decisions. With Trinity Mirror’s WalesOnline.co.uk being one of the largest news websites for Wales, it appears that such changes that surfaced yesterday is another indication that the future of local, regional and national reporting is well out of the more than competent hands of those who create and consume it.
Hughes states his reasoning as: “The commercial interest isn’t interested in Wales. We’re not big enough or profitable enough.” Such views are not new, with similar commentary being aired back in 2010, on how ‘private interests of the City of London over the public interest of the readers and communities it serves’ in the context of Trinity Mirror.
Welsh Liberal Democrat’s have picked up on yesterday’s news and the possible long term impact with Peter Black AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture Minister writing to Trinity Mirror to express his concerns. Mr Black said: “I’m incredibly concerned that any move towards clickbait journalism will mean less coverage for our Welsh political institutions, which can only be bad for democracy.
“Making individual journalists’ targets based solely on the number of times their articles are viewed massively devalues true investigative journalism, and could spell an end for in-depth research to uncover wasteful spending, bad management or irresponsible actions in Cardiff Bay or County Halls.
“A story about someone spotting a Kim Kardashian look-alike in Gorseinon could well get more clicks than an article about underinvestment in Wrexham’s mental health services, but without more stories like the latter there will be fewer opportunities to drive forward improvements to public services.
“Media Wales is one of the few truly pan-Wales media organisations we have. They have a duty to provide a space for politicians of all kinds to be held to account. If these plans go ahead I fear our politics will only become more unaccountable and detached from the people we represent.”
Previously we have covered the circulation drops for both NWN’s Leader titles and Trinity Mirror’s Daily Post, however both have now opted out of regular ABC reports so there is no independent, recent figures we can find that refer to their print circulations.
One recent analysis has the Daily Post down a further 6.2% year on year, which is a comparably good performance against similar titles across the UK. Both local titles are following national and international trends in declining print sales, with as recently as 2007 the Daily Post having 37,000+ circulation and the Leader having 21,000+, as we wrote back in May the picture has changed somewhat with the Daily Post suffering a 30% drop and the Leader a 40% drop from those heady days.
Trinity Mirror are at least trying to address the changing media landscape, and as one wag on HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk observed: “The public gets what the public wants … was Paul Weller prescient?”
Yesterday Trinity Mirror’s share price rose 1%.
(Wrexham.com has published a few articles for fun, such as Autocompleting Wrexham, Video of Southsea to Wrexham, Council TV listings, Which famous people have you seen in Wrexham, Quadcopter views of Wrexham, and our terrible attempt at a ‘local’ listicle. One article we were accused of clickbaiting was the news that America was snooping on Wrexhamites… )