30 Jan 2024

Media Network: Who is influencing the influencers in Westminster? | Issue 1, 2024

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

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As we enter a likely election year: who is the most influential political journalist in Westminster?

By Keith Gladdis, former Daily Mail Executive News Editor 

There was a time when newspapers could make or break a General Election. In 1992 the Sun famously claimed it won the election for John Major and the Conservatives after its election day front page featured a portrait of Labour leader Neil Kinnock in a lightbulb with the headline: ‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights’.

No media title would claim to have such power today but their journalists do wield significant political influence in Westminster, especially on social media. We asked Atul Hatwal at our data analytics partner DeepSeer to find which political reporters were shifting the political needle most among political decision makers in Westminster.

DeepSeer applies proprietary analytics to social media to understand who and what is influencing audiences. The audience analysed for this ranking is Westminster, comprising MPs, journalists and commentators with measurement of influence based on Reach across the audience, the percentage impacted by content from each author and Impressions, the number of times content by the author was shared into audience social media timelines.

Our top five for the last quarter of 2023 is:

  1. Beth Rigby, Political Editor, Sky News.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 1 million.

Highest impact content: Breaking news on the scrapping of northern section of HS2 (October), speculation on the date of the election (November) and potential Conservative leadership challenges (November)

  1. Pippa Crerar, Political Editor, The Guardian.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.92 million. (despite her name being consistently misspelled on X)

Highest impact content: Stories on Labour scaling back its £28bn green investment (December), £2m of government Covid start-up investment funds going to companies linked to Rishi Sunak’s wife (October) and the Supreme Court ruling against sending asylum seekers to Rwanda (November)

  1. Dan Hodges, columnist, Mail on Sunday.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.88 million.

Highest impact content: Posts on the growth of antisemitism in Britain following October 7th (October to December) and commentary on Rishi Sunak’s speech to Conservative Party Conference (October)

  1. Harry Cole, Political Editor, The Sun.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.77 million.

Highest impact content: Stories on the organiser of large pro-Palestine marches working for the Labour party (November), Esther McVey’s new role as cabinet minister for ‘common sense’ (November) and Conservative MPs’ rebellion on the Rwanda bill (December)

  1. Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor, Sky News.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.64 million.

Highest impact content: Stories on Rishi Sunak’s interview with Elon Musk (November), Rishi Sunak’s speech announcing 5 long term promises (November) and Conservative projections for by-election results in Tamworth and Mid-Beds

For further information on DeepSeer contact [email protected]

The new BBC Chair’s Inbox

By Ian Kirby, Former Political Editor of The News of the World 

Samir Shah has been touring Broadcasting House as he prepares to take over one of the toughest media jobs in global media – the new chair of the BBC.

Dr Shah, 71, has been reassuring some of the stars of Newsnight, who have been redeployed across BBC News, that their investigative skills are going to underpin the Beeb’s revamped news coverage

MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee have noted the new Chair’s clear priority are “narrowly focused on news and current affairs”.

This is no surprise. Dozens of experienced BBC regional reporters and presenters were shown the door just before Christmas as BBC News slashed its regional content. Hundreds more jobs are expected to be phased out nationally as the organisation absorbs £500m of cuts due to a below inflation Licence Fee increase. A further appearance in front of the Select Committee to explain how the impact of these cuts is being managed is scheduled for late Spring.

Further major decisions will follow in the next couple of weeks: who will replace Huw Edwards at the News at Ten? Will the budget cuts allow sustained coverage of at least two major wars and a general election in 2024? How will the ongoing legal battle to force the BBC to release e mails relating to Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview be concluded? How will the BBC’s news coverage compete with the explosion in podcasts like the Rest is Politics and The News Agents?

Senior staff have been impressed by first impressions and are relieved the political drama over the links of predecessor Richard Sharp to Boris Johnson is over. But it will be interesting to see if Dr Shah still holds his belief that the “BBC’s sheer scale and organisational culture creates a “monolithic posture that makes it appear anti-competitive“.

“News you can use” key to getting in The Sun amid gloomy news agenda

Jaber Mohamed, former reporter at The Mail on Sunday, spoke to Sam Blanchard, Health Correspondent at the Sun about the stories he’s looking to cover in the coming months. Sam told him: 

The Sun is very UK focused and we want stories that would appeal to the average man or woman on the street I write a lot of consumer-style stories and ideally they should be fun, interesting and positive.

If the news is negative it is better if it’s ‘news you can use’. For example, I wrote a story recently warning parents not to feed their children too much junk food as they can develop stiff arteries by the age of just 17. It’s a negative story but it’s useful to our audience.

I’m especially interested in stories about obesity, dementia, cancer and cosmetic procedures.

City A.M. looks North

By James Rollinson

City A.M. has hired its first permanent member of editorial staff in Manchester as the daily business title looks to extend its reach outside of the capital.

Job Robinson, formerly North West Business Editor at Reach title BusinessLive, has joined the freesheet as UK Editor, an appointment which suggests the freesheet is looking to shift its editorial focus away from the Square Mile to British business more widely.

This is the latest of a recent raft of changes at City A.M. following THG founder Matt Moulding’s takeover of the paper last July. The editorial team’s headcount has since grown by around a third, and, as reported by The Telegraph at the end of December, the business is looking to establish regional hubs.

Executives are also reportedly considering a “freemium” model that would place a paywall in front of a small selection of premium content – reflecting similar changes made by MailOnline and The Independent – reinforcing the need for feature-driven exclusives from brands and businesses.

Movers and Shakers

By Charlotte Grant, former ITN News Reader

After almost six years at the helm of the Daily Mirror, Alison Philips will step down as editor-in-chief at the end of this month. It follows news that Reach, the owner of the Mirror, plans to cut 450 jobs, 10% of Reach’s workforce. Caroline Waterson, current editor in chief of Reach’s magazine titles including OK!, will take over as interim editor.

Isabelle Fraser has been appointed Money Features Editor at the Telegraph, starting at the end of January. She was previously Associate Money Editor at the newspaper.

Another Telegraph appointment sees Gareth Corfield made Transport Correspondent, following a short stint as Money Writer at the paper. He was formerly the Telegraph’s Senior Technology Reporter.

Notable recent appointments at the BBC include Paul Royall’s permanent position as Executive News Editor of the BBC News Channel after a period as interim Executive Editor.  Political Correspondent and former 30 To Watch winner Ione Wells has swapped Westminster for Sao Paulo, as the BBC’s new South America Correspondent. She replaces Katy Watson who will soon start as the BBC’s news Sydney correspondent.

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