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The death of newspapers’ political influence?

Newspapers ‘lost it’ when it came to influencing the 2017 UK election: 

Why? And how does this affect advertisers?

It’s true of every generation, young people don’t want to follow their elders. It’s what sparks change throughout society – whether it be in popular culture, social morals, technology, or politics.

This rang true in the case of the 2017 general election. Media owners with their traditional political influence, lost their touch and ended up backing the losing – or drawing team – rather than the winner.

Could this be the end of newspapers’ political influence?

During the 1992 general election, The Sun’s headline “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights” supposedly turned the nation’s favour from Labour to Conservative, with John Major at the helm.

Ever since, the political party with the largest newspaper support has won the election. However, in the 2017 election, The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Daily Express and The Times all supported the Conservative party, which equates to 11.9 million UK adults being influenced by Conservative editorial messaging daily. Compare that to the left-wing newspapers (Guardian/Mirror) who “only” reach 3 million UK adults. In the past, this would have meant it was a slam dunk for Theresa May.

So why on 9th June did we find ourselves with a hung parliament instead of the Conservative landslide that these titles were editorially pushing for?

A huge factor to this could be the stark contrast in the way Newsbrands* present themselves digitally and in print.

The “Tribe” mentality of what newspaper – and by extension, political viewpoints – readers hold, has been eroded by Newsbrand’s own digital offerings.

The Daily Mail is a great example. Their online editorial content (MailOnline) has a much stronger focus on celebrity and sport than their print edition. You don’t see as much Katie Hopkins fire and brimstone online as you do in the print edition, instead the latest news/gossip on Love Island is the strength of their digital presence. This has led to fragmentation of Newsbrand’s editorial voice offerings.

As per the YOUGOV poll, after the election most under 40’s voted Labour, whereas most over 50’s voted Conservative. 60% of the Mail online audience are under 45 compared to 82% of the print audience being over 45. With such a huge disparity between their online and print audience the editorial voice of newspapers is being lost.

Another key element in the diminishing influence of newspapers is the growth in social platforms being utilised for news brands to distribute content. This has allowed other content providers access to a huge audience without the need to incur costly printing and production costs. Buzzfeed is an example of a company which has branched into typical news and political reporting with teams of specialist journalists working for them.

This has meant that the UK population – particularly a younger audience – has the choice to consume content which displays a wider variety of viewpoints than that which is available from the printed news stand.

Print media is still a trusted media and a great awareness channel, and although there are diminishing circulations there is still growth in the market.

Readers are desperate for trusted news – fake news has seen a resurgence in quality journalism. Subscriptions of The Economist increased 5-fold after Trump was elected President last November. With this comes renewed trust in print journalism, higher engagement and higher dwell times.

The 2017 election will have given newspaper editors a wake-up call; that their influence isn’t as strong amongst a younger audience, and that they can’t be as bullish in their demands on politicians.

Of course this isn’t the end to Newspapers political influence. They will have to adapt, but they’ve done it before and they’ll do it again. And remember, the revolutionary youth of today will be the old fogies of tomorrow, reading the same papers (even if it is on an app, or social platform, or hologram …) that their parents did. Though in the meantime, The Metro is set to become the UK’s largest newspaper within the next 18 months – a title that is completely political neutral!

*Newsbrands – Mix of print and digital editions of a newspaper.
**Sources: NRS (Apr16-Mar17)

For more information call James Russell on 020 7539 6148 or email James at jamesrussell@thespecialistworks.com

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