The digital campaign gets underway for #GE2019

Here it is then: the first, really, truly, no-it-really-is-this-time, digital election campaign.

Possibly.

But it is certainly true that the main parties have hit the digital campaign trail hard.

Labour released this incredibly slick promo that demonstrates some of Jeremy Corbyn’s highs from the past three years, as well as neatly encapsulating its anti-establishment message.

Labour had the best of the 2017 General Election campaign, as I have written elsewhere. And its early efforts this time around look set to build on that success. Tight messaging aimed at specific audiences, with heavy emphasis on Rebuilding Britain.

The Conservatives also focussed on their leader. Demanding that the electorate Back Boris to Deliver Brexit. The Conservatives have also been quick to try to outflank Labour on commitment to the NHS.

The platforms of choice are inevitably Facebook and Twitter. Labour and the Tories are also putting more effort into Instagram. Labour making use of behind the scenes UGC to frame Corbyn as a dynamic figure.

What does all this tell us?

The parties are clearly spending significantly on the production of high-quality content. These are not add-ons but core messages designed to convince the electorate. And all the parties’ social media operations look much more professional than in previous years.

Some pundits had suggested that Labour would want to use Corbyn less prominently than in 2017, given the low level of his personal polling. The first day of campaigning has clearly demonstrated that’s not true.

This looks set to be a presidential-style campaign with leaders’ personalities and beliefs at the heart of the debate.

And the use of outriders to spread the message further will also be a feature of the campaign. Look at this fund-raising appeal from Momentum that was shared by Jeremy Corbyn.

Thus far, the gloves have stayed on. The posts and videos have been presenting a positive vision.

But don’t expect that to last. In 2017, the most shared videos were attack ads. It is likely that the knives will come out before too long.

Publish and be damned? Why we shouldn’t play the terrorists’ news game

The news that 49 people have been murdered in two mosques in New Zealand is appalling.

It is hard to imagine a worse crime.

But this media-literate killer decided to not only live stream the killings but produce a “manifesto” of his ideas too.

This presents a dilemma for news organisations – should they use material created by the killer?

On the one hand it may help explain why the crimes took place, what the motivation of the killer was, and why he chose to act as he did.

On the other, it is clear that he wanted this material transmitted and shared in order to spread his poisonous theories around the world. By using the material journalists risk doing his bidding.

In a breaking news situation, there is an immense temptation to throw on-screen any material from a terror attack.

Footage of dramatic events is the essence of visual news.

But, as I’ve written before, we all have a duty to think twice about using this kind of material.

And that’s not just professional journalists but also social media users who find it troublingly easy to share horrific content.

All of us have to play a part in not spreading hate. And that includes those social media platforms who’ve recently discovered that they do have consciences and a role to play in society.

Explaining Labour’s Facebook success at #GE2017

I’ve written a post for the LSE’s Politics and Policy blog on the Labour party’s use of Facebook at the General Election. It’s another piece based on the data-set I created and presented in Cyprus in September. I’ve submitted a longer, more academic piece for publication in a book next year, assuming it passes the peer review.

Academics analyse the UK’s 2017 General Election

The Political Studies Association and several academics from Bournemouth University have coordinated a quick turnaround analysis of the General Election.

I was very lucky to be asked to write something on the digital campaign.

You can see my take on the use of Facebook here

Digital still the poor cousin at the RTS TV Journalism Awards

The decision to award Steve Hewlett the Judges’ Award at the Royal Television Society Television Journalism Awards dominated the reporting of this year’s event.

That’s no doubt correct. But it did somewhat overshadow what a terrific night it was for Channel 4 News; the team  won programme of the year, Matt Frei picked up TV journalist of the year and Waad al-Kateab won a number of awards including Young Talent.

Before the event I spoke to Digital Editor, Jon Laurence, the driving force behind Channel 4 News’s incredible success with social video – especially on Facebook.

Despite recent changes to make the RTS a more level playing field and stop ITN’s domination of the categories through its multiple newsrooms, the awards still don’t recognise the contribution of digital to the success of news journalism.

I find that surprising and disappointing – as I said to Jon, although he was self-deprecating enough to laugh it off.

Still, with digital threatening TV’s audiences as never before, it’s surely sensible to celebrate TV newsrooms’ digital success. And perhaps phase out the ancient news technology award.

One final thought. While Tom Bradby won for Network Presenter of the Year, even as the reviews of the Nightly Show suggested the move of the news was a mistake, and the BBC won for Home Coverage with its series on prisons, this wasn’t a great year for the big bulletins.

The RTS has tried to increase the pool of jurors, including myself, but it would be a shame if the awards lost their sense of the industry awarding its peers because the independent jurors ended up voting for the shows they watch or appear on.

In Nations and Regions News, the category for which I was a juror, the broadcaster representatives still had a vote – unlike some of the more hard fought categories, such as Programme of the Year. I wonder if that is a better solution than only independents voting. Perhaps some more tweaks to the rules might be advisable.