Gooooood morning. What an incredibly pleasant day it is outside? If the day were a person, it’d be Eboue at a Christmas party. A little ball of sunshine. Maybe not Eboue now. No World Cup for him this year. Sad times for the tiger suited right back.
So how was yesterday?
Well, it was quite fun. I got to sit in and watch a press conference. I took some snipey flak online for it. Shocker. Not sure why. I’m a fan, not a militant or a right wing action group looking to take down the club. You either want to see the day or you don’t. Being critiqued for going to yesterday is like being critiqued for going to games. I create Arsenal content everyday of the year, I have social channels dedicated to sharing that, if I can get some stuff to share, why not? The same people who moan about me going to these things moan about journos. At least I’m a fan.
Anyway, whatever. It’s become quite clear that people snipe whatever happens here.
So what did I learn yesterday? Well, without meaning to take down and industry… especially one I’m about to sit with this evening, it’s not hard to see why traditional media is in such a hole at the moment. Yesterday’s press conference was 60 strong. 60 people there, all taking notes on the same event. 60 people who all loosely know each other. I mean, in the world of online content, originality and angle is king. How are these guys supposed to get an angle on a story if they’re all listening to the same thing?
I jumped in a cab with three online journalists on the way in. They told me they were almost solely KPI’d on page views. So it was all about the salacious title. David Ogilvy, the famous marketing creative once said 80% of a clients copy budget is in the headline. It’s true to an extent. Online is a cluttered space. Your headline needs to be punchy and interesting otherwise people won’t come… and I get this totally. However, if you’re KPId on page views, are you hitting for great journalism, or are you looking for the one fleck of controversy that will inflame page views?
Quick point here, I’m not for a minute suggesting all journalism is poor. Clearly it’s not. However, it feels like a lot of these online publications are missing a trick. There are three KPIs that are important from a digital perspective with a publication. The first is dwell time. If people don’t stay on your site very long, there might be a value with the advertising impression, but the person who has come on the site and disappeared in 5 seconds hasn’t built and affinity with your site because clearly they’re disappointed with the content. When you use misleading headlines and the story disappoints, you’ve lost a reader. The second is bounce rate. You want to hook people into the site. The Daily Mail side bar of shame is world class at keeping you online. The most important one for me, is return visitor rate. Does that person return off their own back?
There are only a few news publications I’ll return to regularly off my own back. The Times, because I pay for it and the Guardian, because the experience is a pleasant one. I’m not sure these publications focus enough on the bigger picture.
The problem is they’re not generating enough revenue. Their solution? More adverts. More monetization. They’re the record label struggling to turn a profit because of falling sales coming up with the solution of putting record costs up. A couple of hideous websites for adverts are the Express and the Independent. I don’t click because the websites are so awful with their fullpage takeovers and the autoplay videos. No consideration for the user, all about pageviews in the moment. Not thinking about the lifetime value of that pageview.
Newspapers won’t survive unless they have amazing digital propositions. The reason their digital propositions are generally so bad is because their infrastructures are fat and bloated and they’re trying to shoe horn them into lean digital operations. Football journalism is changing, give it 10 years and things will be very different, because from where I’m looking, you can’t run a business the way these papers do and expect to survive.
I remember speaking to a very good journalist at a very good paper who told me he had to supplement his salary by £8k to survive. For me, the future model of journalism is freelance with a mix of newspaper and brand. The sad fact is, brands pay better. I pay journalists to work with me, so I know the prices that happen. One of the biggest English speaking publications (profitable publication as well) just asked me to write for them this Sunday… the offer? £50. Interestingly, the brand / publisher mix is happening with bloggers as well. They’re offering a supplementary living as well. It’s becoming one big blurred mess… but an interesting evolution as the industry buckles under the reality that they’ll have to evolve to survive the next ten years.
The jist of what I’m getting at here is that the page view will become an irrelevance… brilliant writing never will. Some papers are forgetting this and forcing journos to do things they’re not proud of. Very sad.
Anyway, onto the presser. What was interesting, outside the totally bland comments of Arsene, was that the journalists goad the manager. Not on purpose, but proceedings went a little like this.
‘Arsene, can you tell us about the futures of some of your key players?’
‘No, I’m not talking about that’
‘Arsene, what about Samir Nasri?’
‘I’m here to talk about the FA Cup’
‘Arsene, do you expect Fabianski to sign on again?’
‘I won’t talk about that’
‘Arsene, this could potentially be Vermaelen’s last game for the club?’
‘I won’t talk about that’
‘Arsene, can you give us a few quotes in French about Samir Nasri’s omittance from the squad?’
Honestly, you’re sitting at the back listening to this and you can’t quite fathom why they’re all asking the same questions? Obviously, not all of the questions were the same, but even the good ones were tepid.
‘Arsene, will the result affect your future?’
You know you’ll get that response. Why not ask…
‘Arsene, if you lose this game at the weekend, do you think after 10 years without a trophy, you should resign?’
Isn’t that what journalism is about? Sparking a response? The manager gets such an easy ride in these things.
Anyway, not too much of a clue what’s going on. You sensed he was very confident by keen not to be complacent.
We then went on to watch the players train. Well, when I say train, we watched them run around the pitch twice. I don’t know much about fitness, but they basically looped the pitch twice, did 3 minutes of shuttle runs and a little bit of stretching. My Sunday league warm up. Proper not advanced.
Anyway, it was great seeing the players so close. They’re just like big kids. Jack had accidentally hurt Koscielny and was begging for forgiveness… he didn’t get it. They all seem to really get on. You also realise how slim they all are. Very slight frames. Giroud is a big old lump though. He’s massive close up, but ultimately, I’m still going gay for him, so deal with it. Diaby is also quite a beast. We were shuffled out after 15min as the club were working on secret stuff. I left then, I met the assistant to Gary O’Driscoll and Colin Lewin after, she said she was a keen reader of Le Grove, what a superstar (or PR stooge, she was pretty). Hopefully that’s on a recommendation of her bosses!
Anyway, all good fun.Sounds like the club are going to make an effort to involve more than the press moving forward.
On the massive positive front. The players look relaxed, the manager sounds relaxed so I’m feeling good about the weekend. In fact, I’m feeling amazing about the weekend. I can’t wait. The FA Cup may not be premier in the players eyes, but it certainly is in terms of fan spectacle. If we finish the season on a win, it’ll be a great way to head into the summer. Some bloody silverware!
Right, that’s all I’ve got for you. Have a damn fine day. I’m at the Football Writers Awards tonight, if I get any off the record goss, I’ll share tomorrow.
HAVE A GOOD DAY DON’T BURN YOURSELF IN THE BLAZING HEAT BECAUSE YOU’LL PEEL WHICH IS NOT ATTRACTIVE.
P.S. I appreciate I make typos… so the quality isn’t up to newspapers levels.