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.
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.”