New Campaigns: Print Media held to account by Social Media?

The closure of the News of the World by News International is being signaled as a major victory for social media over traditional print media. Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, echoing a famous political Sun headline from 1992 tweeted:

John Prescott
The News of the World is closing. It’s Twitter Wot Won It! But this won’t stop us Murdoch. #NOTW

Twitter was seen as an important mode of communication in the “Arab Spring“. It also seems to have been important in what might now be dubbed the British “Media Summer”.
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So what new did we see new in this campaign? The most interesting was the rapid Twitter bombardment of advertisers asking them to disinvest from the paper. It came in three phases:

1. A #NOTW hashtag that brought all those with an initial concern together. This enabled both those involved and those commenting to express their view, self-organise and collaborate. This was reinforced by websites like Mumsnet also organising online discussions.
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2. Once it was clear that advertisers were to be the main target of people’s immediate anger, a Twitterer developed this page to automate the process of tweeting a message to the companies. When companies did not respond fast enough it was followed by this site, complete with a spreadsheet containing the names and e-mail addresses of the chief executives at firms said to advertise with the News of the World.
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3. The #NOTW hashtag was also used to advertise the campaign by the “people-power web movement Avaaz to submit objections to Ofcom over the News International takeover of the remaining 61% of BSkyB shares. As a result over 150,000 people submitted these and this is likely to cause delay to the decision as the Minister and regulator will have to demonstrate they have read the objections. Avaaz showed their level of organisation and resources by funding their own opinion poll on public perceptions to the takeover.

The speed of this was breathtaking. However let’s also recognise that not everyone was directly part of this campaign. Indeed a poll showed that 23% of New of the World readers, through behavioural habit, loyalty, or perhaps in reaction to what they might have seen as synthetic anger from what they perceived as the ‘liberal media’, still intended to buy prior to the closure announcement. If the News of the World had continued, how would these people have felt this Sunday if they had been criticised for a purchase? Whatever views we might hold, how much do we consider how people feel who did see the News of the World as an institution they trusted over support for victims of crime or our armed forces and, according to the most recent polls, did want to see continue? Many of them will also feel let down too, but for very different motivational reasons than those who just disliked Rupert Murdoch, his executives and his news organisation. People’s values do count here. Perhaps, as the Observer newspaper suggested, the increasing public demand for outer-directed celebrity news stories encouraged the culture that has been exposed in the News of the World?

How far do we reach out beyond the inner directed who tend to dominate this sort of online campaigning activity. Richard Wilson of Izwe  in his new column in the Guardian  has some suggestions for widening involvement and these are the sort of things TCC would also recommend.
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There are lessons here for public organisations too. If a local authority social services department or hospital comes under substantial online criticism for a significantly bad action or decision, it may well be reformed as a result, but unlike a newspaper, it is too important to the people it serves to be simply shut down overnight. Public organisations in those situations would need to rebuild their reputation if they face a strong social media campaign. This requires both online and offline engagement.

After these recent events, is the future more personalised short-termist online media which works off the reputation of its owner for the period of time that they are perceived as relevant. This week we have seen the launch of Huffington Post UK and Dale and Co as new media outlets. Such organisations will only survive if the reputation of their proprietor and operators is good. The role of ethics in media reporting is thus likely to rise whatever regulatory bodies are established to replace the Press Complaints Commission.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

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5 Responses to “New Campaigns: Print Media held to account by Social Media?”

  1. John Joyce Says:

    Surely instyead of engaging in endless poilce investigations public enquiries and litigation ,one criminal trial wouldsort the whole thing out removing Queen Bee Rebekah and possibly threaten Mr Cameron’s Premiership.

  2. The Guardian reports on the increasing relevance of Values Segmentation « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] the Guardian about the issue of Values segmentation in the context of the recent events involving News International and alleged phone hacking. This is the second article they have written on values segmentation. George Monbiot also referred […]

  3. “Something for Something” – Is reciprocity now the key public policy debate? « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] few weeks prior to recent News International phone hacking furore, Times columnist Danny Finkelstein wrote on the issue of differing perceptions of fairness, which I […]

  4. Social Media Toolbox Says:

    Social Media Toolbox…

    […]New Campaigns: Print Media held to account by Social Media? « The Campaign Company’s Blog[…]…

  5. social news Says:

    What’s up mates, how is all, and what you want to say about this paragraph, in my view its in fact amazing in favor of me.

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