More than news in a newspaper

The Manchester Evening News has unveiled a new masthead slogan. The previous strapline, ‘The voice of Greater Manchester’, has been replaced by ‘A friend dropping in’.

I thought I’d be the only person not employed by Trinity Mirror who’d give this switch a second glance, but when I mentioned it on Twitter yesterday other newspaper geeks stepped forward with their opinions. Reaction was broadly negative (‘makes me cringe’ and ‘strange’ were two comments) but I confess I am more enthusiastic.

Assuming the new slogan emerged from focus groups, I imagine participants would have indicated the MEN is seen as a paper of record, strong on politics, crime and business. The old slogan fits that image well. However, there are plenty of readers and potential readers uninterested in ‘high’ issues.

So I see the change of slogan as recognition, perhaps, that other elements of a newspaper are just as important to some readers as the front page scandals and back page action. For the start there are the ‘softer’ subjects, like community news, features, entertainment or columnists.

And, while journalists don’t like to admit this, many readers turn straight to the parts of the newspaper that have nothing at all to do with ‘editorial’. That could be the family announcements to see who’s been ‘hatched, matched or despatched’, or the letters page(s), dating page, classified ads, homes or cars for sale or jobs listings.

I have experienced what happens at newspapers when there’s a printing or subbing error on a crossword or the TV listings – a constant stream of phone calls from dozens of angry readers. The reaction is way above what you experience when something’s wrong with a news page.

A local newspaper is a sum of all these diverse elements. You will find them in isolation elsewhere, principally online, but you can’t get the whole package unless you buy a newspaper. So I rate the slogan ‘A friend dropping in’ as a good way to emphasise a newspaper is a unique mix of hard and soft news, essential information and entertainment.

Or maybe I’ve just put *way* too much thought into it.

UPDATE: I should add, having been told on Twitter three times, that the MEN slogan isn’t new as such but a revival of one from the 1980s.

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3 Comments »

  1. Auntysocial said

    I don’t like the “Friend dropping in” thing either to be honest. I know what you’re saying in that it’s not all “hard-hitting, headline grabbing, sensational-tastic” type stuff but I don’t like – or trust, anyone or anything that pretends to be something it’s not. It gives me a mental image of some pervy Paedo with a bag of sweets, reminding the youngsters to come and see Uncle Weirdo next time their parents tell them off.

    I get the same feeling whenever I see or hear David Cameron.

    By the way, do some folk honestly phone up and go pots for rags over an error on the crossword?? That’s amazing.

    • Hi Parly, point taken on the slogan. It’s all subjective, but got me thinking about a newspaper as a package of equally valid elements rather than just important stories and unimportant bits around them.

      Yes, phone calls about crosswords and TV listings printing/production errors really do happen. I’d say we might get 50 calls in those circumstances (not all angry, most just pointing it out) compared with 2 or 3 for a similar foul-up on a news story.

      And I know older relatives who turn to the death notices first to see if anyone they know has passed away; many others who read a newspaper back to front, poring over the sport and flicking through everything else; and it’s often said that a letters page is the most read in any newspaper.

  2. Auntysocial said

    Oh God yeah –newspapers do offer a nice colourful bundle of things that are interesting, comical, absurd and that do make you go “No way?” from time to time (usually after reading the “Guess who’s dead” section.

    When I read the paper, I tend to scan / speed read each page and will either stop at a story that’s interested me or tickled me in some way or other. What tends to tickle me more than anything are the little four or five word stories with fabulous little headlines (“Post worries inside box” was one I clocked a couple of days ago) Sad I know – but that’s what I do. It’s not just with papers though. I spot little things like in papers, mags, ads, on websites etc.

    I always read whichever columnist features that day although some get less of my time and attention than others. It’s a shame Caroline wasn’t replaced because we’re down to just Shuiab now in terms of light-hearted columnists.

    I quickly scan the letters page and again, stop only at something I think is interesting. If I’m honest, I very rarely read the LT comment because more often than not, it riles me.

    I’m always intrigued by the snapshots and one-liners from members of the public in the “Burning Question” bit at the bottom of the letters page because I wonder how they end up there to start with. The same goes for the women who are interviewed and asked what they have in their handbags, which person they spoke to first that morning was and what makes them cry etc. Do you send someone out into Blackburn to collar a few folk and take their photo?

    I super speed read the first few pages of “The Guide”, mainly because I’m not interested in TV and movie reviews etc or what the listings are for that day / weekend.

    I do stop at the listings for gigs, music, theatre and other events taking place.

    The “Guess who’s dead” bit is another one I stop at, mainly because I work with so many elderly and / or poorly people. Part of it is just morbid curiosity but when I do spot someone whose family I got to know well, I like to drop a card in the post and let them know I’ve not forgotten them even though I’m not working with them anymore.

    The jobs / classifieds get a good look over and again, some ads will tickle me because of the way they’ve been worded and I’ll spend more time than anyone should giggling about it.

    I did a double take at one of the LT’s ads the other day which had something like “Sell your stuff for just £1 per night”.

    And that’s it I think. I stop as soon as I hit the sports pages but that’s because I’m a girl.

    🙂

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