Tag Archives: Express

How linking brought the Mirror’s Hilary Benn speech transcript to life – while driving traffic & SEO

Mirror Hilary Benn Headline

It’s not unusual for news organisations to publish full transcripts of political speeches – but The Mirror have done something simple with Hilary Benn’s speech on a vote on air strikes in Syria which seems like such a no-brainer you wonder why everyone doesn’t do it.

It is simply this: they have added links.

In doing so they transform a linear, text-only experience which assumes certain knowledge on the part of the reader (actually, listener) into something journalistic: reporting that adds context and illustration.

hilary benn speech links

The links added to the Hilary Benn speech help provide context and drive traffic

Here are some of the roles that those links perform:

  • Directing the user to broader coverage of the debate as a whole.
  • Providing background on criticism of the Prime Minister for not apologising.
  • Explaining what Daesh is (Benn assumes the listener knows who they are; The Mirror, publishing his words for a different audience, does not).
  • When Benn refers to outstanding speeches, we can click to read a listicle distilling the best of those.
  • Linking to reports on the Paris attacks.

This last point bears some elaboration: too often journalists assume that their online readers are as familiar with the publication as print readers used to be.

But online readers are more diverse and read much more widely than a typical print readership: there is no guarantee that a typical user landing on a page on your site has ever read anything else on it; and it’s even less likely that they read everything.

This particular article is a good example: from an SEO perspective it is targeted at people Googling for ‘Hilary Benn speech‘ or ‘Hilary Benn speech transcript’.

Can we assume they read The Mirror’s coverage of the Paris attacks? No. It is much more likely that they heard about the Paris attacks through social media and broadcast bulletins.

Online, it’s more likely they checked the BBC site than the Mirror.

There’s also a point to make about international audiences: what may have dominated the news in Europe for days may have been missed by readers elsewhere in the world. Never assume your audience knows what you do.

The SEO role

The ‘Carnage in Paris’ link isn’t just about driving internal traffic: it is also about SEO. Internal linking helps Google to find and understand content better.

For the same reason the word ‘Daesh‘ is linked not once but every time it is mentioned: the Mirror is trying to strengthen the link (in Google’s terms, the relevance) between that word and their post explaining what Daesh is and why the term is being used instead of ISIS or Isil.

Unfortunately, this also means that other opportunities to serve the reader through links can be missed.

The speech, for example, mentions a United Nations resolution, but there is no link to that. It mentions debate about the ‘70,000 troops’ figure, but does not link to any factchecking on that figure. Both of these might involve linking outside the site, and sadly this isn’t a priority.

This is something that needs to change in news organisations. In some cases, external linking is discouraged in the mistaken belief that it will ‘drive traffic elsewhere’. In fact, there is evidence that  it leads people to return to your site (it’s even been linked to evidence of digital progress). This is like a TV producer arguing that they should not film on location in case people decide to go there instead of watching TV.

There is even evidence that suggests it makes a small impact on your SEO; and no evidence that it is a negative factor.

The fundamental role of linking

Links are as fundamental to online journalism as pictures are to TV, and yet we are not there yet: still you will find articles published online with no links at all.

The Mirror’s approach is a great example of this. To see why, you only have to imagine if television had no footage of Benn speaking (as would have been the case 30 years ago). In that situation TV would not simply run audio on a black screen: they would add pictures to illustrate what we were hearing. Likewise, if radio only had a transcript they would find aural ways of bringing that to life and adding context.

Links, of course, can do both. And embedding – essentially a form of linking – can do. In fact, that’s the approach the Express adopt on their transcript, alongside images and a gallery. And it’s also useful to note that the Mirror still embed the video of the speech at the top of their piece, even though they have devoted a separate post to the video alone.

Because: why not?

Cervical cancer jab: how the newspapers have learned nothing from MMR

The UK media have learned nothing from the debacle over the MMR vaccine – where they relentlessly covered stories doubting the safety of MMR, putting the lives of children at risk (this is cross-posted from my blog).

They are continuing their habit of undermining public-health initiatives with their latest scare story about the safety of the cervical cancer jab, after the tragic death of a schoolgirl who had the vaccine the same day.

I’ve given each of the mainstream media an irresponsibility rating below – the Mail and Express are the worst scaremongers, followed by the Mirror and Times.

It’s calculated as follows:

  • A headline suggesting a causal link between the vaccine and the girl’s death – there is no evidence of this so far, the two events just occurred on the same day: 20 points
  • The use of a photo or words in the headline casting doubt on the safety of the vaccine itself (as opposed to, say, this being a one-off allergic reaction): 20 points
  • Calls for the vaccine to be banned: 20 points
  • No mention of how many lives the vaccine will save: 20 points.
  • Separate comment piece doubting the safety of the vaccine, or emphasis of other stories about vaccine problems: 10 points
  • Ill-informed user comments adding to the suggestion of unsafety. 10 points

Daily Mail: 90% irresponsible

Headline: First picture of girl, 14, who died after being injected with cervical cancer jab from ‘rogue batch’

  • The headline suggests a causal link. It makes claims of a ‘rogue batch’ in quotes where the only use of those words in the story are the journalist’s own.
  • It’s running a poll: “Should the cervical cancer vaccination be suspended”.
  • There are a lot of figures about side effects – no mention of actual lives saved.
  • The best rated comment is currently “Chemical experiments on our children.” The worst rated is “Many more deaths may occur without the vaccine to guard against HPV.” The comments section is appalling, frankly – full of ill-informed anti-vaccine scaremongering.

Express: 80% irresponsible

Headline: Girl, 14, dies after taking cervical cancer vaccine Continue reading

Guardian the most bookmarked newspaper on delicious

The Guardian has more URLs bookmarked on Delicious than any other UK newspaper, as I first revealed here (with the original video here)

There are 10,914 Guardian URLs bookmarked, with the Times coming 2nd (3,944) and the Independent in 3rd place (3,196).

Newspaper
website
Bookmarks on Delicious
Guardian 10,914
Times Online 3,944
The Independent 3,196
Telegraph 2,258
The Sun 1,409
FT 1,303
Daily Mail 785
Mirror 624
Express 197

Quarkbase must be using the Delicious API but it doesn’t say where it gets the number. Click the papers’ name to see the Quarkbase figures (and more).

The stickiness of UK newspaper sites compared

Visitors to UK newspaper sites look at an average of 2.5 pages a day, according to data from Alexa. But 62.8% of users look at just one page (figures originally posted here).

In terms of daily page views per user, the Sun (4 pages), Guardian (3.1) and Telegraph (2.9) are above average. Visitors to the Mail site look at just 2.4 pages a day – so while the Mail may have come top in the July ABCe figures, maybe its large number of overseas visitors aren’t staying to look round the site.

Stickiness of UK newspaper sites

Newspaper Daily page views
per user
Bounce
rate (%)
The Sun 4 48.5
Guardian 3.1 59.2
Telegraph 2.9 65.2
Daily Mail 2.4 60.7
Times Online 2.4 59.7
Independent 2.2 70.4
FT.com 1.9 66.8
Mirror 1.7 67.5
Express 1.7 66.7
Average 2.5 62.8
  • Better than average figures are in bold.
  • The bounce rate is the percentage of visits that consisted of just one page (so a low number is good).
  • These figures are 3-month averages. These change on a daily basis at Alexa – so they may have altered slightly by the time you check. Click the papers’ names to see the current data.
  • The overall average at the bottom is a simple average – it has not been weighted by traffic.

Page views vs bounce rate

The table is ranked by daily page views per user. The bounce rate is another measure of stickiness. It doesn’t exactly correlate with page views, as papers may have differing proportions of loyal, engaged users who visit lots of pages. The more pages that these users visit, the better the page view figure – but they won’t affect the bounce rate.

The Telegraph has a worse bounce rate than the sites near it in the table, perhaps because the great success with its Digg tool doesn’t always lead to multi-page visits?

Using Alexa data

There are issues with using Alexa data like this as it underrepresents UK users, who may have differing usage patterns to other visitors. However, as it seems to underrepresent them more or less equally, the rankings should be OK even if the absolute figures are all out by the same margin.

Newspapers: turn off your RSS feeds

Update, 2 days later: Paul lets me guest post here (ie I wrote this, not him). It was going fairly well until I wrote this post … You can read my climbdown here

The latest subscriber figures (see table below, and first published in my blog’s newspapers category) show that, apart from a couple of exceptions, it’s time for newspapers to turn off their RSS feeds – and hand over the server space, technical support and webpage real estate to an alternative, such as their Twitter accounts.

(You can read some of the defences of RSS here and here)

The table below shows that only 3 of the 9 national newspapers have an RSS feed with more than 10,000 subscribers in Google Reader.

And most newspaper RSS feeds have readerships in the 00s, if that.

melanie-phillips-rssDaily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips has just 11 subscribers to her RSS feed (maybe there’s hope for the UK population yet …).

Despite having virtually no users, the Mail churns out 160 RSS feeds and the Mirror 280. All so a couple of thousand people can look at them in total.

The other papers are just as bad. And while the Guardian has a couple of RSS readers with decent numbers (partly because Google recommends it in its news bundle), it has more feeds than there are people in the UK … Continue reading

Daily express website relaunching

Express.co.uk is about to undergo a redesign (and there’s a good review of the new look, still currently in beta, at econsultancy).

To me, the new site isn’t that impressive (screenshot below, or you can compare the old front page or new front page) – it looks like a poor mashup of the BBC and Yahoo in the existing colour scheme.

Even worse, it’s not very accessible as there is literally no content on the new home page with javascript turned off.

The agency behind it is Netro42 who say here about the old version that “Netro42 working in partnership with Northern and Shell quickly established that the key to success was in wholly utilising the digital space.”

Personally, I like to partially use the analogue space when working on websites, but I may be old fashioned.

New Express homepage

New Express homepage

I wonder if the new design means they’ll update their site on a sunday? Or get some better suggested search terms?

Facebook, Dunblane and a 2 page apology from the Express – a lesson in online journalism ethics


2 weeks ago the Scottish Sunday Express led with this cover story (PDF) on how the survivors of the Dunblane massacre were turning 18 and – shock, horror – drinking and making rude gestures. Reporter Paula Murray, it seemed, had “managed to inveigle her way into a Facebook friendship with teenagers from the town and write a salacious piece about their “antics”, based on information culled from their profiles.” You can read it in full here (text) and also here (PDF). The original was quickly taken down.

So far, so middle market. But what happened next was an abject lesson for the Express – and Paula – in how things have changed for journalists who will do anything for a ‘story’. Continue reading