Home > Daily Mail, Pythia of Journalism, The Guardian, The press, Twitter > Should the Guardian give up its unhealthy obsession with Justin Bieber?

Should the Guardian give up its unhealthy obsession with Justin Bieber?

The Pythia of Journalism has a revealing post comparing various national papers’ “audience” divided into print, web and “social media” (for which read: Twitter).

It contains this infograffiti,  taken – inevitably – from the media blog de nous jours, The Media Blog:

Newspaper audience: Print + Web + Social

A deeply interesting infographic that examines how the readership of...ooh, look - butterfly!

Pythia, using all the accumulated knowledge of grub street back stabbing and opportunistic job-hopping that today secures you a sinecure as “Professor of Journalism” at City University London, opines thusly:

As Sturgeon readily concedes, it’s only a snapshot. But it is revealing all the same. Note, for example, the Daily Mail’s enormous reach in print and online compared to a relatively small social media (Facebook and Twitter) following. The Guardian, by contrast, has almost as many social media fans and followers as it has daily visitors to its website. Its reach is, arguably, more penetrating.

Well, that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. Another way of looking at it might be this, and this. And comparing it with this.

But that’s by the by. Let’s look at another of Pythia’s points, which is that the Guardian’s reach is, arguably, more penetrating. In what way could the Guardian’s obsession with Twitter be more arguably penetrating?

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber: Arguably more penetrating

Oddly, I think I found the answer in Sam Leith’s Arts Column in yesterday’s…well, Guardian 2, actually:

My current favourite fact about human civilisation is that fully 3% of all activity on Twitter consists of conversations about [Justin] Bieber. That is, 3% of an entire communicative medium – on which any and every idea in human history can potentially be discussed – is spent on talking about Bieber.

Could it be that a lot of the Guardian’s arguably penetrating social media reach is really just twittering about an 18-year-old Canadian pop singer with backwards-facing hair? Does a good 3% of that dark blue block next to the Guardian in the graph above actually comprise furrow-browed Guardianistas earnestly tweeting each other about the recent egging of Justin Bieber in a Sydney concert hall?

I do not pretend to know. But if so, the Guardian must stop this arguably more penetrating obsession.

UPDATE: More on the Guardian’s twitter obsession. Apparently, according to Frédéric Filloux, news coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden showed how news organisations “have mastered social media such as Twitter”.

Quite apart from ignoring the fairly mundane fact that however you get the news – via Twitter, Facebook, heard it from a bloke in the pub or messenger pigeon – you still have to do the routine, basic journalistic work of verification and actually writing it up into readable prose, Filloux unwittingly betrays the extent to which media organisations are in awe of shiny new media while forgetting those first principles.

For instance, he links to this startling piece of infograffiti (I use that phrase to indicate that, like graffiti, it gives more pleasure to the perpetrator than the hapless viewer). It purports to show how news of the terrorist’s death was spread via Twitter:

How news of Osama bin Laden's death was tweeted, allegedly

An amazing in-depth infographic of how Osama bin Laden...ooh, look - flower!

Wasn’t that interesting? Well actually, no. It is, in the useful phrase of P J O’Rourke, informationally subtractive: you know less about the subject after looking at it than you did before.

I’m going to alert Peter Sands to this particularly egregious example of the infograffitist’s art, as he has a good blog posting on this sort of nonsense.

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  1. February 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    But there was one so egregious, one so paramount of what I m trying to convey, that I can t help myself.

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