30 Jan 2023

Media Network: Issue 1, 2023

Welcome to the first MHP Group Media Network bulletin of 2023. Every fortnight our unrivalled team of former journalists and media experts bring you the latest insights behind the headlines.

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In Conversation with Paul Brand, ITV’s UK Editor

Ellie McGarahan reports

MHP’s Charlotte Grant hosted a Q&A with ITV’s UK Editor, Paul Brand, who broke a series of Partygate exclusives including unforgettable footage of Number 10 staff laughing about parties during lockdown.

On his Partygate video: “We knew we had our hands on something significant, but weren’t expecting the reaction we got. My source was initially unsure on whether to let us publish, but when they heard Boris Johnson deny any wrongdoing, that was the moment they wanted to push the button. As soon as we went public, it was clear that most people felt strongly that the parties flew in the face of the mass sacrifice made throughout the pandemic. It’s rare to get your hands on a story that everyone will have an emotional connection with, but this was certainly one of them.”

On how he and the ITV News team approach stories: “If you watch any other news bulletin you’ll notice that at ITV, we prioritise people’s stories in any discussion of policy. We like to get out on the street, speaking to normal people about how the headlines are having a real, emotional impact on their lives. We now have the hour-long Evening News 6.30-7.30pm to allow for more of a UK-wide, regional focus, with the normal local news taking place after the evening bulletin.”

On the big themes that will dominate the news agenda this year: “We’ll keep covering the cost of living crisis as it continues to bite. People are right to be pleased that the inflation rate is slowing, but we shouldn’t forget that prices are still rising at the same time. As well as strikes, the NHS story will also roll on this year – it’s probably in the biggest state of crisis I’ve seen since becoming a journalist.”

On the next general election: “Many of the stories we cover this year – whether its inflation, cost of living or Ukraine – will begin to be viewed by the public through the prism of the next general election. Labour will by no means have an easy ride when it comes to this – we’re over a year out which means there’s a lot to play for and we could see the polls change dramatically in that time. But what we’ll find is that Labour will get more of a hearing than they did previously, particularly when it comes to being taken more seriously by business.”

How to land a story on PA Media

Interview by James Rollinson

MHP’s James Rollison spoke with Henry Saker-Clark, PA Media’s Deputy Business Editor about changes to the city desk and the stories they are looking to cover in 2023

What do you expect to be the major business stories in 2023?

We are already seeing a lot of news about job losses and redundancies, as businesses try to cut costs ahead of an uncertain outlook. The big US tech companies, such as Microsoft and Meta, are the obvious examples, but we also broke the news that Amazon is shutting UK warehouses alongside plans to cut 18,000 jobs globally. How businesses are adapting to survive the changing financial climate is likely to be a big focus for us over the coming year.

Are you open to background briefings with senior executives?

Yes, absolutely. We are renowned for the accuracy of our reporting, so the more detail we have on a situation, deal, business or person, the better. Off the record briefings are a great way for us to build relationships and ensure the accuracy of stories and can often lay the foundation for features and stories in the future.

What kind of stories do well for you?

Any kind of proprietary data is always a good start, especially if it’s an exclusive. Offering us flexibility also helps, as it means we can time stories to ensure they get the best pick up. Sunday for Monday is usually a good time for lighter stories, and if we’re running something during the week we like to get it up by 9am so news desks have all day to pick up and use the content.

How big is the PA City desk now?

We have four key members. Holly Williams is editor, and also covers macroeconomic stories, and I tend to focus on retail, leisure and hospitality. August Graham usually focuses on energy and commodities, while Anna Wise is been leading our banking coverage. We also work closely with Consumer Affairs Correspondent Josie Clarke and Personal Finance Correspondent Vicky Shaw, as well as Martyn Landi on tech and Industrial Correspondent Alan Jones.

A deep dive into The News Agents podcast

Interview by Charlotte Grant

Over 14 years at the BBC, Dino Sofos helped transform their political coverage, creating the hugely successful formats Brexitcast, Newscast and Americast. Five months after launching The News Agents Podcast, he tells Charlotte Grant about the opportunities.

Who is your audience?

Our audience is make up decision makers, politicians, celebrities as well as a diverse, younger audience so it is a really exciting mix. In the first three months, we had 10 million downloads. We’re now comfortably hitting over six figures per episode – for a daily news podcast, that’s an incredible listenership.

How does that compare to TV?

Those figures aren’t as large as a TV audience, but we know so much about our listeners. We can tell when they skip past ads or drop off. For us it’s consistent – our listeners stay through to the end.  Our social media content also has a real impact. We had Nigella Lawson on in December talking about greed, which went viral and made the front page of the Times.

What guests and stories are you looking for?

Our stories are driven purely by a combination of the news agenda, what’s going on in the world and what we’re interested in. We do have some feature-led content, but it’s got to feel relevant and rooted in reality especially given the Cost of Living crisis.  When it comes to business, we’re looking for CEOs with an opinion, who have something interesting to say.

When should journalists and PRs approach them?

If it’s breaking news and you can offer a great guest or CEO, get in touch as soon as possible. Day to day, we try to get our recordings finished by 1.30pm, so we can publish at drive time.  For forward planning, it’s never too early to get in touch to see if it’s a guest, news line or subject that we could be interested in.

What about paid for content?

Podcast advertising is incredibly effective as it’s so targeted. We do ‘host reads’ (where Emily or Jon voice the advert) so companies can pay for a selection of host reads, which we find very successful.

All change at City A.M.

By Ellie McGarahan and former Telegraph Industry Editor, Alan Tovey

City A.M. will no longer produce a printed edition on Fridays in a move editor Andy Silvester said reflected the structural change to working patterns among the London business freesheet’s readership.

The decision will put City A.M.’s journalism in “the right places on the right days”, according to Silvester. Post-pandemic and with more people working from home on Fridays, the final edition of the week of City A.M. was suffering “significantly lower” circulation, he added.

Online coverage is being beefed up on the Friday, and Thursday’s print edition will have more lifestyle coverage reflecting what’s effectively the weekend starting early. This will mean making sure that Friday reflect this new focus, being a little lighter or leisure focused.

Jack Barnett has also announced that he will pen a weekly column as part of his promotion to Economics Editor. Speaking to MHP, he said it will centre on a different economic trend each week – supply side productivity, growth, inflation – and will feature commentary from industry experts and analysts. Each piece will include two charts to illustrate the trend, taken from investment bank and thinktank research notes.

Further resignations signal discontent at the BBC

By Ellie McGarahan

The BBC exodus continues as three more of the public broadcaster’s most experienced news presenters confirmed they are quitting due to cost-cutting plans which will merge BBC News’s global and domestic rolling news channels.

David Eades, Joanna Gosling, and Tim Willcox are leaving after a combined 53 years of service. Eades departed the BBC earlier this month, and Gosling last week. It is not yet clear when Willcox will leave, and all three have not yet confirmed their next moves.

The BBC is planning to launch the new channel in April, which will serve both domestic and international audiences. It has positioned the merge as a key part of the corporation’s plans to reinvent its television news output to become “digital-first” and “the best live and breaking video news service in the world”. Ofcom is set to make a key announcement on the proposal in the coming weeks.

Movers and Shakers

By Pauline Guènot

Some national change in the retail beat

  • Jonathan Eley, previously Global Retail Editor at the Financial Times, has been appointed Longform Editor – Arjun Neil Alim will cover the Retail beat until Jonathan’s replacement is announced.
  • Isabella Fish recently started at The Times as their new Retail Editor, joining from Drapers.
  • Emily Hawkins, previously Reporter at City A.M., joins the Daily Mail to cover retail and leisure alongside Archie Mitchell.

New Economics faces at Bloomberg

  • Bloomberg appointed two new UK Economics Reporters: Lucy White, previously City Reporter at the Daily Mail, as well as Tom Rees, previously Senior Economics Reporter at The Telegraph.

Busy January for City A.M.

  • Along with Emily Hawkins, Leah Montebello left City A.M. to join the Daily Mail, covering Technology and Media.
  • Jack Barnett has been promoted to Economics Editor, and Nicholas Earl Energy Editor.
  • Chris Dorrell, former Alliance News Reporter, has been appointed Banking Reporter.

Coming soon – MHP’s Media Network filmed podcast

Look out for the MHP Media Network filmed podcast, which will be launching in February. In the first episode, we will be joined by Becky Barrow, News Editor of the Sunday Times, and Anthony France, Crime Correspondent and News Editor at the Evening Standard.

We will be sharing the podcast across our website and social channels, follow us on LinkedIn to keep up to the date with the latest updates.

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