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Political media is back
FN 166: Politics UK expansion, Politico and GB News updates
There are two reasons why summer felt so long. It’s actually still sunny in Britain and we didn’t face a referendum, leadership challenge or anything else blowing up in the socio-economic system. It’s apparently meant to ‘be this way’, something UK political hacks haven’t experienced for quite a while.
But no sooner than had Parliament returned, it was back in recess again from 19 September for conference season. The two big ones start from this weekend. The Conservatives are kicking things off in Manchester, while Labour host their own jamboree the following week. The end result is that political media is back and there have been a few changes.
First up, Politics UK, which claims to be the country’s fastest growing news aggregator, is considering an expansion into TikTok, according to Bailey Nash-Gardner, the platform’s founder who also serves as CEO of its parent company NewsHub.
“We’re looking into it,” one of his anonymous admins explained. “We use Threads occasionally, but the engagement there isn’t great. We might try short-form video in the future, but right now our main focus is building a strong reputation for impartial news on X.”
Speaking of X/Twitter, Politics UK is nearing 100,000 followers, many of which have been amassed over the past six months. The goal next year? To achieve 150,000 by mid-2024. The team won’t be changing their formula heading into the election year. Snappy, impartial posts which are geared towards virality and brevity.
Politics UK effectively picked up the mantle from Politics For All’s in doing this, with the latter platform being shut down during the last years of pre-Elon Twitter.
Politics UK has taken a more cautious approach, joining media regulator IMPRESS in February and using volunteers to run the account. There are now three admins helping out and the team are on the lookout for a fourth with a strong international affairs background.
As for revenue generation, Nash-Gardner said the outlet has made “a very small amount” through the new X/Twitter monetisation scheme. But he said the undisclosed amount mainly covers website, email and X/Twitter premium costs.
“The amount remaining is divided equally among the admins, but any money is a bonus - the admins enjoy providing news for nearly 100,000 people, and it’s a big help for their careers after university,” he said.
The team also provided some key tips for journalists, outlets or anyone else who wants to be more engaging on X/Twitter:
Keep it short whilst still conveying important details of the story;
Emphasise key words by capitalising them;
Don’t simply copy and paste article subheadings;
Don’t add unnecessary jargon.
One of the other interesting developments in Westminster media is what is happening at GB News, the upstart broadcaster. It’s suspended three presenters in three days, which will no doubt prove to be an unwanted distraction as it seeks to cement itself as a serious player leading up to the general election in the UK next year.
The channel’s new political editor Christopher Hope, who joined GB News from The Telegraph, hit the ground running near the end of summer when he was just one of three broadcast journalists (the others being from the BBC and ITV) who were able to publicly ask Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about his net-zero policies.
Hope and his political team will be keen to keep that kind of momentum up in Manchester and Liverpool. But political media is a super-competitive forum and Politico will be seeking to make further inroads into the space when it partners with one of GB News’ rivals, Sky News, and launches a new podcast this weekend.
Politics at Jack and Sam’s is hosted by the Axel Springer-owned outlet’s UK editor Jack Blanchard and Sky News’ Sam Coates. The plan is to give listeners a Sunday night briefing on the week ahead in Westminster. Politico had already expanded its London Playbook newsletter format to two editions each working day.
A glimpse into the metaverse. Lex Fridman’s latest interview with Mark Zuckerberg has given us a sense of what any high-definition 3D metaverse looks like (I’ve written previously about how elements of the 2D metaverse are already here). To achieve these amazing visual results, both Zuck and Lex had to sit for hours as their digital avatars were rendered. In the future Zuck hopes that the average consumer can achieve the same result by using their smartphone. We’re a long way from one of the first virtual seminars in SecondLife hosted in 2008.
A post-Murdoch world. Aged 92, Rupert Murdoch is becoming chairman emeritus of Fox Corporation and News Corp. Many of the media still can’t get their heads around the move, but it’s happening, folks, with Lachlan Murdoch, 52, now being appointed chair of the companies. The eldest son will have to carefully navigate the media conglomerates as the industry, and their customers, continue to face a variety of digitisation tail and headwinds. The Spectator’s Charles Moore, who avoided working for Murdoch Snr., has written one of the more balanced articles on the media magnate.
Total Rugby TV. We’re about half-way through the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, with the competition kicking off on 8 September and coming to a close at the end of October. There have been some fantastic games – the standout being Ireland vs South Africa – but the drawn-out format of the competition undermines any momentum and enthusiasm for the sport. Viewers have had to wait over a week for a Tier One game. Even New Zealand versus Italy, billed as a tough battle to get to the quarter-finals, was a stinker as the Kiwis ran over the Azzurri, thumping them 96-17. Why not hold the Women’s Rugby World Cup at the same time?
Waiting for cloud gaming. I’ve always been a video games fan who’s never had the means to buy a super-expensive PC ‘rig’ to play triple A games online, now I don’t have the time. In many ways then I should have been a top target for the industry’s next big bet, cloud gaming. So far the sector hasn’t taken off, with Google announcing the shuttering of its Stadia platform in January. But Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemo is cautiously optimistic on the technology, giving a broad five-to-10-year timeline on the mass adoption of cloud gaming to the FT. The background to all this is that Microsoft sold many of its streaming rights to Ubisoft in an attempt to appease regulators around its acquisition of Activision.
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