Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Big pictures, big headlines.

It really is true that a picture tells a thousand words.

Well actually, nowadays it's more likely a picture fills a hole in your paper a thousand words would have gone if you had the staff to write it.

Early on I learned (was mercilessly beaten) to realise that pictures in this job are worth far more than words.

After all who wants to read about a spectacular event when they can hopefully see it in an image (yes, ok, I now include video into this blog - just don't ask me to embed anything).

Who wants to read about a dead mum/kid/scoutmaster without seeing what they looked like before their awful newsworthy demise.

A good pic can make a shit story sing. A page with nothing worth reading on it look can look like you actually have some tales with a clever use of a pic.

Nationals understand the power of the pic. Most decent pictures in the nats don't have anything resembling a story to go with, but who cares. It is why most of the red tops have an equal or bigger budget for pics than news.

It's why freelance snappers earn more on day rate than hacks - despite the fact most sit in their cars scratching their arses when you are door knocking like a mad-man for a collect.

If news is king. Pictures are the emperor.

I reinforce the pictures, pictures, pictures mantra into my guys every day. It's gradually getting through.

If something explodes in the High Street I call my snapper before my reporter. I shout 'don't forget to ask for pictures' on every death knock.

Punters are getting more media savvy. We pick up an increasingly amount of reader pics on our breaking news stories.

On a ring-in, and if they are nearer than my lot, I ask them to whip out their mobile and take some snaps.
Mostly shit, but I like choice and we have had some front pagers from them.

I want images on every lead or it ain't a lead. Front page pic must be worthy of front page.

It doesn't happen every week and I know it can't but why strive for second best?

First call should be to get your snapper rolling, you can always call him back when if it's a false alarm. No harm in sending early because that extra five minutes could mean getting your guy to the scene before the tape goes up.

Words you can get on the phone.

Pictures show you were there.

Is ABC really as easy as 123?

A high circulation - combined, of course, with decent informative editorial - is at the heart of every good free newspaper.
After all our strength is the little figure - found commonly on the back page or page 2 - which reveals the number of homes our product gets to.
Advertisers still love circulation figures because it equates to readers, and we are almost entirely dependent on the money they spend each week in our papers.
So, when our management decided at the beginning of the year that it would be a wizard wheeze to cut costs by slashing distribution, everyone else thought it was the act of incompetent fuckwits.
And how the chickens have finally, and beautifully, come home to roost with the new ABC figures.
My titles' circulations are down by tens of thousands of editions. In one case a quarter, another a third of their previous totals.
We print them next week and advertising staff are already being 'trained' how to lie their arses But our advertisers are not stupid and, mostly, live locally. They suspected this was coming months ago.
When little Billy the paperboy from number 7 gets the bullet from his £2.50-a-week job and they don't get a paper that week, they knew about it.
When their mum from the other estate and their brother-in-law from three streets over also don't get a paper they get a call.
When they meet other business people and hear the same stories they started to realise they are getting fed a rather large and unpleasant shit sandwich - with no sauce.
Now they actually know they are chomping on a turd baguette.
Readers are also equally unimpressed when they suddenly stop getting what they thought was their local paper.
They talk. They know. After all where the fuck do we get our stories from.
Suddenly your paper has gone from the powerful champion of the people, to an irrelevant, barely read, unreliable free sheet.
I see tumble weed and the hear the tolling of a single bell.
Once a decent ABC figure is achieved it should be cherished and protected.
Paperboys and girls found dumping editions in skips and under bridges should be flogged then sacked.
Every complaint to my desk about lack of delivery means at least 50 editions, sometimes as many as 200, have not reached their destination ie into the readers glorious, slightly sweaty, mitts. I used to get 5 a week. I now get 15-20.
I encourage and cajole my reporters to take each complaint seriously by recording it and sending it to our distribution department.
The very best complaints - those from powerful local figures or advertisers - I email to our head of distribution, our MD and group ed.
The resulting fall out of these latest 'cost saving' measure, I predict, will cost the company - and more importantly our papers' reputations - far more than the few thousand quid they 'saved' over the last six months.
This is short-term, bean-counting bullshit thinking at it finest.
Do management arseholes who have been in this industry longer than ten or twenty years actually realise all of their 'improvements', 'efficiency savings' and 'modernisations' over the years are the reason we are now witnessing the extinction of newspapers?
Or do they wake up and wonder how it is the newspapers they bring out weren't as good as they were six months or a year ago? Despite the fact six months to a year ago they sacked half the staff.
Short term cuts are always seen over a long term period, you absolute no mark wankers!
Wake the fuck up before it's too late!