I am currently in the middle of reading David Crystal’s (2006) ‘Language and the Internet’, an interesting book that, when it started mentioning style guides, got me wondering about whether style guides could be used to determine whether the UK web space was politically on the left, or on the right. The leading broadsheets from both sides of the political debate have publicly available style guides (i.e., The Telegraph and The Guardian), and the differences could be used for the basis of such a linguistic-webometric investigation.
My personal favourite style guide section is The Telegraph’s Banned Words. Whilst the banning of terms such as ‘Europhobe’ have obvious political motivations, you have to wonder whether it was really necessary to explicitly ban referring to ‘perverted Scout leaders’ (Whilst Google Trends does not show the phrase to be endemic, that may be because of the Telegraph’s quick action). It is interesting to note, however, that despite the Telegraph’s authoritarian values, they seem seem to be very lax with their own language, the supposedly banned ‘mass exodus’ was used only a few days ago. Surely there will be letters to the editor!
Unfortunately these days search engines try to be helpful, and ignore many of the differences. For example, ‘Yahoo’ and ‘Yahoo!’ are both treated as the same, when any fool would know that the exclamation mark reflects the searching for more conservative opinions on the search engine. It would be nice to be able to turn a search engine’s ‘helpful’ features off occasionally.
There used to be a time when the Guardian ruled the online newspaper world, but whilst it continues to produce quality journalism the other newspapers have caught up. ComScore have declared that The Sun Online now has the most total unique visitors, whereas the Guardian had long ago lost the number one position of total minutes on a newspaper site. What happened to the digital divide that was meant to keep the Sun readers offline?
One of the many web topics that is of interest to me is the delivery and sharing of news on the web. Despite the rhetoric of the blogosphere I have never been persuaded that traditional journalism can be successfully replaced by so-called citizen journalism, for the most part the blogosphere highlights, and puts their own opinions on, news stories coming from traditional sources. Whilst I have always cast a cynical eye on the traditional media, I must admit that I didn’t quite realise how far journalism had gone in the cutting of corners and trimming of budgets. After finishing Nick Davies’ “Flat Earth News“, you can only conclude that news is up the proverbial creek.
Even the great BBC, which brought my attention to the book in the first place, is not immune to criticism. Can correspondents really do their job properly as they constantly jump between tv stations, radio, and the web?
At a time when the market is clearly not up to the job, surely it is time we should be emphasising the Beeb’s public service credentials rather than trying to force it into playing by the market rules. Surely there should be a campaign out there to increase the licence fee.
Nielsen Netratings have just released the latest figures for the top 10 UK print newspapers online. Whilst the Guardian continues to attract the largest number of unique users, most of the other papers are growing faster, and in terms of total minutes on a site the Guardian is in a poor fifth place after The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and The Times.
The sites are being compared because they all fall under the umbrella of ‘UK national newspapers’, but the wide variety in the time people are spending on the sites indicates significantly different types of user behaviour: The high amount of time spent on The Daily Mail and The Sun may indicate that people are approaching these sites in the same way they do newspapers, seeing them as a whole package; whereas the significantly lower periods of time spent on the more serious newspapers (i.e., The Times, The Telegraph, and The Guardian), would seem to indicate that it is the individual stories that are of interest. Comparisons between the different newspapers are really comparing chalk and cheese. It is also pretty meaningless to purely look at UK figures, sites such as the Guardian have a significant following in the US (whereas the US has plenty of its own right-wing crappy press).
If comparisons are to be made between the newspapers, it would probably be more interesting to compare the results with the print editions’ circulation figures. Such figures would truly indicate the Guardian’s online success.