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February 24, 2009

Mr Dacre, I’ve got a gentleman from the marketing department on the line for you. . .

By Peter Kirwan MM blog

Seen the Daily Mail‘s front page splash today? 

Social websites ‘harm a child’s brain”.

This follows last week’s corker on Facebook as a cause of cancer. 

I’ll leave you to catch up on the reaction (it’s plastered all over the place, although sadly, Ben Goldacre appears to be exercising some self-restraint).

In passing, however, I thought I’d link to the views of two mainstream PR professionals — Will Sturgeon and Stephen Waddington — who seem content to criticise the Mail publicly. 

PRs critising the Mail publicly for ‘lazy’reporting? Oh yes.

And there’s more. Sturgeon suggests that David Derbyshire, the author of the splash, is ‘as coherent as a holocaust denier at the end of a ‘drink your own bodyweight in Absinthe’ competition”.

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Presumably, Sturgeon wasn’t thinking about Ken Livingstone and Oliver Finegold when he wrote that.

But still. . . here’s what I want to know: how does the Mail‘s attack dog coverage square with its demographics?

In commercial terms, this is a woefully regressive editorial line. It boxes the Mail into a demographic trap populated by know-nothingers, flat earth enthusiasts, the elderly and hypochondriacs (among others).

Facebook is now the Britain’s second most-visited website after Google UK. On Christmas Day (no less), the site received one in 22 of UK internet visits.

As Hitwise attests, social networking sites now account for over 10% of all Internet visits.

This is one hell of a constituency to alienate — both numerically, and in terms of relative attractiveness to advertisers. It includes a fair old dollop of Middle England, too.

All of which makes me curious about whether the Mail has run any research on its readers’ attitudes to social networking in the recent past. 

Perhaps it has. At the very least, you’d hope executives took note of the negative tone of so many of the comments appended by readers to last week’s Facebook story.

This morning’s splash seems to be attracting similar levels of ridicule.

Notably, the ‘kids’ brains’story dominated the front page of the Mail‘s print edition this morning. But as of 4pm this evening, I can’t find a link to it on Mail Online’s homepage.

Odd, that.

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