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News chiefs rally behind daily’s off-patch story after ‘clickbait’ jibes

News chiefs rallied to defend a regional daily’s online article about an event 70 miles off patch which proved one of its “top stories” on the day it was published.

Senior staff at the Huddersfield Daily Examiner joined past and present Trinity Mirror directors in debating with readers on Twitter after a story about a fire at Blackpool Tower was published on its website.

The Tower is 70 miles away from Huddersfield, and one former journalist who hails from the town described the story as “desperate click-bait”.

But among those taking to Twitter to challenge criticism of the story were Examiner editor Wayne Ankers, executive editor Lauren Ballinger, Trinity Mirror digital publishing director David Higgerson and the company’s former regional editorial director Neil Benson.

Blackpool Tower

Blackpool Tower

Rob Stewart, a former Holmfirth Express, Hull Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph journalist, wrote: “No idea why this Blackpool story has appeared on what I used to know as the Huddersfield Daily Examiner website but someone needs to put a stop to this desperate click-bait policy.

“I come from Huddersfield. I live in Bristol. So I check the Examiner for stories about my hometown [and local sports teams]. I don’t go there looking for Blackpool stories. Call me simple, but that’s the way it is for punters like me anyway.”

However, Lauren pointed out that of the 28 stories published on the Examiner’s website on Wednesday, it was the “only one not about Huddersfield or Kirklees”.

Lauren told another Twitter user, posting under the name ‘The Year of the Dog’, that the article was “one of the top stories on our site” on the day it was published.

David then posted: “Local newspapers have always covered stories out of their area, if it’s of interest to readers. I used to work on a Blackburn paper which splashed on the [Blackpool] Pleasure Beach being on fire.”

And Neil added: “So the Examiner shouldn’t carry any news from outside Huddersfield? Readers aren’t interested in anything beyond the end of their road? Huddersfield folk have never been to Blackpool on holiday? The stats don’t lie – this is clearly of interest to Examiner readers.”

Wayne wrote: “We do more than 20 local stories each day keeping people informed and entertained. Thousands of people from Huddersfield go to Blackpool each year so we thought there would be interest in it and there was. As a growing website we cover Huddersfield in depth but also do lots more.”

Trinity Mirror declined to provide HTFP with statistics or any further comment relating to the story.

11 comments

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  • March 12, 2018 at 8:12 am
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    Its not a one off for TM my local does it all the time particulary at weekends to inflate their facebook likes and click throughs. I think its particularly bad when they don’t clearly state the story is off patch, as that is definitely clickbait.

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  • March 12, 2018 at 8:33 am
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    Ok, the logic seems to be that if people from Huddersfield go there it is worthy of a story on the website. Taking that further, if thousands of people from Huddersfield go to Spain on holiday each year, presumably the website should also carry stories about a major fire on the Costa del Sol?
    If thousands of people from Huddersfield shop at Tesco, should the website carry stories about Tesco’s latest financial results?
    Where is the line drawn?

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  • March 12, 2018 at 9:10 am
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    I suppose all that can be said if the Blackpool fire is that it was a “real” news story. For that thei good folk of Huddersfield can count themselves lucky.
    Here’s a sample of the dross today on the Trinity Mirror website which covers the Berkshire area:
    “Finally the first sign of Spring is just around the corner, and with it hopefully warmer weather.
    People across Bracknell, Wokingham and Reading, [Berkshire] will wind their clocks forward by one hour on Sunday, March 25.
    The change in time will mean one hour less sleep on Saturday night, but it will bring lighter evenings.
    The clocks will go forward at 1am, with electronic devices connected to a network changing automatically.
    So if your clock needs manual changing it’s recommended before you fall asleep, as this will stop the mad dash after making a late start.
    The clocks changing happens twice every year, with the clocks going forward in March and clocks going back an hour in October.
    The move from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to British Summer Time (BST), gives us more daylight in the evenings and less in the mornings.”

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  • March 12, 2018 at 9:51 am
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    A lot of local news websites clearly find that big stories from off the patch often do better than ones on it, particularly on social media. Stories on topics which traditionally featured strongly in print frequently do nothing with the younger audience online, and websites built around their local offer are probably handicapping themselves in terms of reach and the all-important clicks. The inescapable logic, it seems to me, is that the local/national/international distinction becomes increasingly meaningless and that eventually all news websites will all carry whatever they think readers want to look at, whether that’s a fire in Blackpool or an air crash in Nepal, and economies of scale will eventually thin them out to a handful of huge global players. Only the really big names seem, at least so far, to have managed to monetise online news without cross-subsidy by a print product.

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  • March 12, 2018 at 9:58 am
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    Try this one I saw in a JP paper once: Christmas is coming.
    At least it was accurate.

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  • March 12, 2018 at 11:16 am
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    Steerpike is correct.

    There is such a disconnect between print and online audiences.

    What readers want in print and what they want online is completely different.

    My paper recently ran a huge local authority expose story, it generated enough responses in print to fill three letters pages…

    … online no-one read it. It took huge amounts of staff time and effort and we were rightly proud of it, but it didn’t make our top 10 stories of the day online.

    I always read in these comments that “people will read good local stories in whatever medium” but I’m sorry we just do not see it.

    Online it’s crime, court and galleries. That’s what people read.

    I would much rather put great local stories online rather than gallleries but it’s not what people read.

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  • March 12, 2018 at 12:21 pm
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    Of course the TM ‘news chieffs’ will rally to defend their decision.
    But under their watch they’ve lost tens of thousands of readers for the print titles – where the money has been – and claim to have all these internet readers replacing them – where the money isn’t.
    But all the talk I get is of people not happy with clickbait, or the in-your-face advertising that spoils the read if you get that far.
    So, yes, they’ve gone on a fire at Blackpool Tower.
    A quick Google shows that other TM titles ran the story as well, including the MEN, Liverpool Echo, the Examiner, the Sentinel in Stoke, but not to worry, because the Blackpool Gazette didn’t miss out, or the Lancashire Evening Post, which is good because it is in their circulation areas.
    And they’re not TM papers.

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  • March 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm
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    When evening papers were published in the afternoon of the day of publication, in addition to local and regional/county news, many would have carried national news, particuularly when the event was too late for that day’s national morning papers

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  • March 12, 2018 at 4:40 pm
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    Stretaham2. those days on proper evening papers scooping the nats were great fun, rather than the feeble and stale next morning papers we see in the regions now.

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  • March 13, 2018 at 12:41 pm
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    The thing that makes it clearly not ‘clickbait’, I think, is the use of Blackpool Tower. It’s not a trick.

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  • March 13, 2018 at 1:55 pm
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    I obviously hold no brief for TM, but I fail to see how a newspaper website carrying an off-patch story such as this can possibly be described as clickbait when it’s something newspapers have always done. A Huddersfield website carrying a story about Blackpool is pretty directly analogous to the Mansfield Chad and Derby Telegraph carrying stories about Skegness, as we did on numerous occasions when I was a reporter on those papers.

    I think it would do all of us a favour if the term ‘clickbait’ – like its near-relative ‘fake news’ – was bandied about much less frequently to be honest. For me, the definition of clickbait is simply a misleading web headline – ie one not backed up by the content it induces you to click through to. It would be good if this could become a standard definition.

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