These are some of the things that have caught my attention lately. It’s a more eclectic mix than just the news business, but then so’s life:
- Harry Henry, press research pioneer, dies | Roy Greenslade — One of my earliest series of articles for Media Guardian, back in 1993 I think, was an attempt to discover why fewer people were reading newspapers. Yes, the sales decline began as long ago as that.
Anyway, although some (not many) individual newspapers had carried out research into their readerships, I couldn’t discover any previous independent market research until I was told about two books by someone called Harry Henry.
One, entitled Behind the Headlines: Readings in the Economics of the Press, was particularly helpful. A second, The Dynamics of the British Press, 1961 to 1984 offered further insights. So, naturally enough, I contacted the author…
As he talked it became clear that he thought newspapers, which are published on the understanding that their journalists know what their readers want, were extremely poor at carrying out rigorous audience research.
- British Independent Cinema – The Sky is Falling and the Natives are Getting Restless | Mediaville — “[N]o one in their right mind would invest in a non-North American, or in a few case, non-French, produced ‘British’ film if it wasn’t for the awards and soft loans provided by the Film Council. And most of these have no longer been reserved, as in the days of BFI funding, for works of ‘cultural merit’, but more for revenge/horror/sexploitation/crime-thriller genre films such as ‘Donkey Punch’ (£445k), the Gillian Anderson rape/revenge movie ‘Straightheads’ (£700k+), or the very highly reviewed and award-winning Brian Cox vehicle, ‘The Escapist’ (£779k).
Each one of these films bombed at the box office. Donkey Punch grossed £300k, Straightheads £187k, and The Escapist closed after just two weeks with a gross of less than £140k.
A major part of this Box office failure is down to British independent films – even those with very large amounts of Film Council awarded National Lottery cash – not managing to secure a general release…”
- Media Bombardment Is Linked to Ill Effects During Childhood | washingtonpost.com — “In probing childhood obesity, for example, researchers found 73 studies over the past three decades, with 86 percent showing a negative association with media exposure. The studies most central to the analysis were large high-quality efforts and controlled for other factors.”
- Why the Automakers Won’t Make Fuel-Efficient Cars, Even as the Price of Being Bailed Out | Robert Reich — Short of a gas tax that would push prices back up to $5-a-gallon — something deemed politically impossible — the only way to get lots more fuel-efficient cars is to put the costs of the gas-guzzlers on to the automakers themselves, as part of a cap-and-trade system requiring the major sources of carbon-dioxide emissions to pay for them. This would give automakers a powerful incentive to make more fuel-efficient cars and price them far more attractively than the guzzlers, thereby attracting consumers to them.
- Obituaries — Pioneer dragged newspapers into modern era | FT.com — Harry Henry, who has died aged 92, was a pioneer in market research, becoming the first to use computers to analyse survey data when Bill Gates was barely out of nappies.
Formerly right-hand man of Roy Thomson, the Canadian media magnate, Mr Henry was credited with dragging the UK newspaper industry into the modern era, using surveys to understand readers and their interests better.
As the last survivor of the 23 people who established the Market Research Society in 1947, his career in effect spanned the existence of the UK industry.
In 1949, he was the first to use a punch-card system to work out how the country was covered by the press, and in 1959 – when Mr Gates was a three-year-old in Seattle – employed a primitive computer for the same purpose.
Mr Henry invented methods of calculating the time people spent looking at advertisements and in 1947 invented the Hulton Readership Surveys, which evolved into the National Readership Survey still operating today.
- Twitter CEO: The revenue’s coming soon, but I won’t tell you how | CNET — “Williams said that the top feature requested on Twitter is grouping, and that it’s in the works. This will enable users to segment their Twitter friends into sub-networks to send specific groups certain posts. It will also make Twitter a more useful tool in business.
Williams also said that the company is working on ways to make Twitter easier for newbies to get into. “It’s amazing anyone uses Twitter today,” he said. “It’s hard.”
- Transparent Corrections: Why Even False Stories Shouldn’t Just “Disappear” | Amy Gahran — But these days if you want to stop a rumor, your correction or refutation must be easily findable and linkable — because the rumor certainly will be.
- Nixon records show aides dishing dirt on critics | The Associated Press — “Never forget,” Nixon tells national security adviser Henry Kissinger in a taped Oval Office conversation revealed Tuesday. “The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy.
“Professors are the enemy,” he repeated. “Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it.”