11 Apr 2023

Media Network: Issue 3, 2023

Welcome to the MHP Group Media Network bulletin. Our unrivalled team of former journalists and media experts bring you the latest insights behind the headlines


The King’s Coronation is one of those rare news events the media can plan for. We asked journalists and news editors what we should expect.

By Annie Knight and James Rollinson

The News Movement is a social-first news outlet for Gen Z audiences. Journalist Sophie Peachey says: “With Royal coverage we take an explainer-led, ‘Red’ approach. ‘Red’ meaning that our content is warm, curious and horizontal, as opposed to the traditional ‘Blue’ coverage that is cold, distant, posh.

“Traditional news always assumes a vast amount of knowledge among its audience. In our explainers, we try to start at Season 1, Episode 1. We’re a generation that didn’t grow up with the same connection or understanding of the Royals.

“For the Coronation, we will output explanatory content of the day itself, as well as content looking at wider institutional themes surrounding the Monarchy. Our coverage will be curated, and we won’t feel the need to add to the saturated coverage of the day unless we feel we have something genuinely different and engaging to offer.”

The Mirror is planning to produce 16 pages plus a 16-page pull-out for the King’s Coronation. The first eight pages are likely to be hard news around the Coronation itself, the guests and the service.

The rest will likely focus on the wider event, such as street parties, how people are celebrating and most likely interviews with royal fans and people who remember the last Coronation.

For clients planning campaigns around the Coronation, it’s a good idea to share information with the team around two weeks before.

Callum Fairhurst a broadcast journalist from ITV News Anglia explained ITV will be covering the Coronation live but had some good advice for brands at this time.

Callum said: “During the holiday it can be a bit more difficult to broadcast more ‘hard hitting’ news so you have a greater chance of landing some branded campaigns.”

The News Agents becomes the UK’s biggest daily podcast

By former ITN reporter Charlotte Grant

The News Agents podcast only launched seven months ago, but this week announced it has surpassed 24 million downloads. The producers and presenters – Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall – have every right to be proud of what they’ve achieved, as it means The News Agents is now the biggest daily podcast in the UK.

Executive Producer, Dino Sofos told MHP that despite only being seven months old “we already feel part of the media establishment.” And their listeners clearly agree. In the first three months, The News Agents had 10 million downloads. Just four months later, they’ve exceeded 24 million. Sofos says they comfortably hit over six figures per episode. Producers of podcasts really know their audience, they can tell when listeners skip past ads or drop off, but Sofos says their listeners are consistent and stay through to the end.

So, what kind of content is The News Agent interested in? Sofos says they’re not afraid to veer off the news agenda, but stories have got to be interesting and relevant. They want to hear from CEOs with an opinion. Each day they tend to finish recording the show by 1.30pm so that they can publish at drive time – if there’s a breaking story, they want to hear about potential guests as soon as possible. For other pitches, Sofos says it’s never too early to get in touch, to see if it’s something the UK’s biggest daily podcast would be interested in covering.

When in a hole, stop digging

By Keith Gladdis, former Daily Mail Executive News Editor

Tough lessons were learned on how to deal with a crisis by Centrica and Ofgem in the last few weeks.

A Times investigation revealed British Gas had sent debt collectors to break into customers’ homes and force-fit pay-as-you-go meters, even when they were known to be extremely vulnerable.

It was a difficult story for British Gas but could have been contained because journalists are often reluctant to follow investigations when they appear in rival titles.

However, Chris O’Shea the boss of British Gas owner Centrica gave the story legs by going onto broadcast the following day to say he was ‘gutted’ at the findings of the investigation.

That resulted in wall-to-wall negative coverage.

Ofgem did the right thing by immediately announcing an investigation into British Gas.

But the regulator made its own unnecessary misstep this week when they demanded the Times journalist hand over his notes under threat of criminal sanction.

Unsurprisingly, the Times put the story back on its front page and Ofgem were forced to backdown and to issue this embarrassing tweet.

Two very unnecessary mistakes.

New model offers hope to regional media

By Ian Kirby, former News of the World Political Editor

There was some bleak reading for regional journalists this week on the closure of 300 local newspaper titles and a loss of 90% of advertising revenue and print sales.

The Liverpool Echo, which sold 130,000 copies a day when I was a graduate trainee in 1995, now has no features department and sells just 15,000.

Paper sales fell by 19% last year alone. Suffocating debts and bleak sales prospects mean Reach plc, Johnston Media etc. face a slow death by a million cuts. But the article underplayed a rebirth that is happening in regional media cross the country as entrepreneurs launch new titles for local audiences.

The Manchester Mill is a model of this rebirth. Over 2,000 subscribers get four newsletters a week for £70 a year.

In Liverpool, 5,000 subscribers get The Post. Sales support six full-time staff and it is being expanded to other cities including Sheffield. The Bristol Cable and hyper local network Nub News are making profits from local stories. Print titles like the Frome Times are also steadily growing their circulation in a free fortnightly paper.

This new model of small, low cost companies free of debts and unrealistic expectations is capitalising on an enduring desire for local news but in new formats. Sussex World launched last year with 16 local news sites and traffic is up 874% year on year.

Let’s hope this trend continues, as the UK media landscape is much bleaker without regional news.

A day in the life of ‘Sun’ showbiz reporter Lottie Hulme

By Annie Knight

There’s rarely a dull moment when it comes to entertainment journalism – after all, showbiz never sleeps – which is why you’re kept on your toes with a cup of coffee, or three, throughout the day. Writing at a fast pace and producing numerous articles throughout the day on the digital platform is a must.

Each day we’ll begin by compiling our ideas, before writing and publishing them and sending them out to the world. We like to produce fresh and exciting scoops.

A big part of my role is interviewing celebrities. You never know who you’ll get – from reality stars to soap stars to Hollywood royalty on the red carpet. One of the most gratifying parts of the day is getting to talk to a star who may have once featured as a poster on your bedroom wall as a kid!

We have celebs drop into the office for chats, and we’ll also attend launch parties or movie premieres and catch them there instead. It can certainly be tiring, but it’s incredibly rewarding too, and fascinating to see how the stars while away their hours, while getting a taste of that glitz and glam.

I also compile a showbiz roundup for our YouTube channel which will be filmed in the office at some point during the day. From writing to pitching to interviewing to recording… there really is no business like showbusiness.

Credit Suisse crisis shows history repeats itself

By Alan Tovey, former Daily Telegraph Industry Editor

Turmoil in the banking sector is dominating business news with fears that troubles at Credit Suisse and Silicon Valley Bank could be the tip of the iceberg and herald a repeat of the 2008 crash.

There’s a theory that the “Great Financial Crisis” – or “GFC” – of 15 years ago was partly down to senior bankers who had lived through previous crises having retired. There wasn’t enough experience in the industry to spot the warning signs and head off the collapse.

A similar thing is happening in the media now. I sat on the Telegraph’s business news desk from 2007 and got a crash course in shortselling, derivatives, CDOs, mezzanine debt and other weapons of financial mass destruction.

Experts who had previously lived in silos working with these esoteric high-finance products had to explain to mystified business journalists what their financial engineering actually did, and why it mattered.

It was up to us journalists to decode their jargon and acronyms, work out what they meant, why they were important and then explain in simple terms to readers why these things could ultimately mean them losing their life savings or not being able to take money out of an ATM.

We’re seeing it again now. Credit Suisse’s “rescue” by UBS hinged on contingent capital or “CoCo” bonds. This is a sort of debt – which converts into equity when a bank hits trouble, and theoretically strengthens their balance sheets – was a complex new concept introduced after the crisis.

With journalism’s natural churn, many of the young reporters who worked through the GFC have moved on. Much of the institutional knowledge quickly built up in those frantic months as the crisis hit has been lost.

So, what happens if the current crisis intensifies? If you’re a financial business, expect calls from journalists looking for insight into things they have almost certainly never heard of before. If you have experts who can explain – ideally clearly, briefly and quickly – what the latest acronym means, what it does and why it matters then you will become worth your weight in gold.

And in an economy that is tanking because people are losing trust in new financial products and fleeing to safety, gold tends to rise.

And finally…

Ever wondered what a WOB is? Or an attic? Or a hamper? Or what bashing out a belter before getting banged out means? Don’t worry, it’s just jargon of journalism.

Despite priding themselves on clear communication, those working in the media are as guilty as anyone of using jargon.

Press Gazette has made a brave attempt at capturing many terms that journalists throw out without even thinking.

It captures many – but is not comprehensive. For example, missing is Media Network’s personal favourite of a “dog killer”. That’s a magazine so big that if it hits the family pet when it drops through a subscriber’s letterbox, then it’s curtains for Fido.

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