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Football editor hits back at fans’ ‘clickbait’ accusations over coverage

A regional football editor has responded to “clickbait” claims from fans in a piece explaining why his website covers the sport in the way it does.

Mark Douglas, of Newcastle-based Chronicle Live, has penned an article about the site’s football coverage as summer transfer rumour season gets into full swing.

In the piece, Mark explained The Chronicle’s policy of prioritising digital, in line with fellow Reach plc sister titles, which he says has led to the organisation being “way more comprehensive than we used to be” in terms of football coverage.

He also addressed accusations of “clickbait” and issues readers had with how certain stories were presented in the past.

The Chronicle has previously clashed with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley

The Chronicle has previously clashed with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley

Mark wrote: “When people call us out at the Chronicle, it’s usually criticising us for writing ‘clickbait’. So here’s a confession: yes, we are looking to get as many page views as we can. We need to keep growing our online audience and want to do it by innovating with the way Newcastle is being covered.

“So yes, we write about things that we think people will be interested in and get into the middle of debates that are engaging people on social media and – we reckon – in the living rooms, pubs, classrooms and offices of Newcastle.

“Clickbait implies that it’s misleading but we try not to oversell or over-promise. If it’s a rumour or report, we’ll clearly state that . And yes, in a crowded online space we have to try and sell it in a way that stands out.

“But if we oversell it, we know people will stop reading. So we’ve worked hard to try not to do that.”

In a section entitled ‘Learning from mistakes’, he added: “That doesn’t mean that we always get it right. We took advice on board and we know some headlines frustrate people. We’ve cut right down on the ‘Why’, ‘What this means’ and ‘How’-style headlines that people didn’t really like.

“And sometimes we get the presentation wrong or trail stories in a way that doesn’t chime with readers.

“When rumours were swirling around Rafa’s future back in January 2017 it was my call to send out a Tweet promising ‘big Rafa [Benitez, Newcastle United manager] news’ – which then revealed further doubts about his future. The feedback was brutal. Lesson learned.

“And that’s the good thing about doing stuff digitally and listening to the readers: we can respond, react and re-direct if things are going wrong.”

Mark also highlighted The Chronicle’s work in being “critical friends” of Newcastle United, citing its past clashes with owner Mike Ashley over fans’ frustrations at a perceived lack of investment.

He added that the “best part” of the new era of football reporting was the greater connectivity between readers and journalists via Facebook and Twitter, which has allowed supporters to “ask us why we’ve written something”.

Mark concluded: “So while some might call it clickbait we’re unapologetic about writing about things that people want to read about. We’ll still liveblog stuff like kit launches and TV interviews and keep on rounding up rumours.

“But we’ll also strive to break stories, set the agenda and reflect what you – the fans and readers – are talking about too.”

6 comments

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  • June 14, 2018 at 10:47 am
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    Editors response headline was – 10 things you didn’t know about our clickbait policy

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  • June 14, 2018 at 11:28 am
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    a very honest approach and to be lauded.
    So unsubstantiated rumour is considered fit to publish. Do advertisers appreciate this?
    welcome to media 21st century style.

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  • June 14, 2018 at 1:19 pm
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    Yes, online strategies are important but Reach is a business aiming for profits in a tough and getting ever tougher market. What do these online football shenanigans generate in hard cash and is it a sustainable amount to cover all the costs, let alone generate a surplus? Or are we deep into stoppage time here?

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  • June 14, 2018 at 1:54 pm
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    Hi paperboy.

    It is not about “unsubstantiated rumours” being “fit to publish”. It is about acknowledging that in 2018 debating and discussing rumours – and as I say in the piece we use our contacts to firm up or knock down the stories being run by other outlets – is part of the experience of being a football fan, as is wanting to know every player their club has been linked with even though they know they won’t sign them all.

    As I write in the piece, our very experienced team of writers have a good hit rate at reporting accurately on likely transfers (the BBC rated us the best regional title for it) – but “media 21st century style” is recognising what fans are talking about and playing a part in it.

    If you use NewsNow you will see how many sites have popped up which cannibalise our journalism (the likes of HITC, TransferTavern). The game has changed (pardon the pun) and the piece was an attempt to explain how we’ve tried to adapt.

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  • June 14, 2018 at 7:16 pm
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    To be fair paperboy, there are wildly popular sports titles (and now websites) in Italy and Spain that survive all summer on groundless transfer tittle tattle, although it is at least based on conversations with reliably predictable and self-serving agents and club ‘insiders’.

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  • June 19, 2018 at 5:34 am
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    “linked with”….the desperate sports hack’s last refuge to fill a slot. no source, no attribution. I have been linked with a contract with Real Madrid. By me, of course, and pure nonsense. Every time I see “linked with” I stop reading. Lazy journalism even if some fans seem to think this rubbish is useful in their lives.

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