Truth, Hidden Truth, and Statistics

It’s ironic isn’t it.  In these days when we’ve witnessed what once was accepted as our national quality press, The Herald and The Scotsman, doing their best to keep their figures from us, we now see the new kids on the block bursting to give us their latest figures.  There is a difference of course; the old timers are on a downward spiral, and the modern way is on the up and up.

In the written press the ‘nationals’ have insisted on re-classifying as regionals.  There is one reason for this, and one alone.  Regional publications only have their audited circulations publicised twice a year.  So these newspapers no longer feature in the monthly reporting of falling circulations, with the big boys.  We only have two chances to talk about them.  But what we, as mere readers have to say, is not important; not, that is, as important as the pitch to the advertisers, and the outcome for the shareholders.

So whilst the traditional media hides behind delaying tactics, the web-based boys are able to use monthly analytics, and through them to let their readers know precisely how much progress is being made.  And typically neither advertisers nor shareholders are at all relevant.  For this is the era of the blog, the new media, answerable to no editor, no shareholder, no advertiser.

In the last few days we’ve had announcements from all of Bella Caledonia, Newsnet Scotland and Wings Over Scotland.  In the blogosphere it is the Unique Visitor counting that is the mark of success.  And these three outlets alone are now running at six figure sums each and every month.  That’s over 100,000 different people.  Now if my habits are anything typical I may visit each of the above sites on several occasions each day of each month.  And each visit may see me read several pages, possibly a new article, updated comments from other readers on previous threads, or perhaps a link to something elsewhere.   For analytic purposes I count as one visitor.  Me and one hundred thousand and more others.

So the blogs are being read, increasingly so.  And the readers are giving up their lifelong habits with newsprint.  And that is why we are seeing the new boys shout their circulations loudly, and the old guard keeping theirs hidden for as long as possible.

But don’t just take my word for it.  There’s an excellent summary over at the aforementioned Bella.

And it’s a world that’s changing quickly, for there’s another new kid on the blog block.  Derek Bateman is a name I’ve mentioned several times.  Recently unleashed into this brave new world he’s been finding the voice that we’ve been missing from our airwaves.  Derek has two outlets, with his initial tentative foray with some biting satire now joined by deep thoughts, reminiscences, and future hopes – covering former colleagues in the written and broadcast press, dodgy practices and poor management, as well as the changing political scene as we are all left behind by Labour and looking forward to a better, fairer and more equal Scotland prospering.  If you read nothing else this week, in print or on line, have a look at each and every one of the posts Derek has made so far.  I suspect his own analytics will be surging; just as his former colleagues are looking over their shoulders.  I’m looking forward to much more from him; more than he could ever have said in his previous life.

You may have noticed another aspect to the trending here.  It’s the Ayes and the Naws; the Referendum.  The traditional media, and vitally the BBC is included here, has set out it’s stance, pro union.  But the people are looking for more than what they have to say, and they are finding it, and liking what they find.  It’s all in the numbers.  Forget the polls.  Read the runes.  Things, they are, as someone once said, a-changing.

The younger ones among you will have noted that I’ve not even mentioned the various social media facilities, which remain alien territory to me. But I’ve noticed that in my own area, the Yes Clydesdale volunteers have moved from a facebook page to a much more user-friendly and widely available web page. And they’re bringing us video footage of speeches and presentations. You may have noticed that I’ve learned the art of putting short films on these pages. It’s how word is spread these days. You’ll learn much more from a few minutes of The Fear Factor, or coverage of a presentation by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp of Business for Scotland, than you’ll ever read in The Scotsman. And it’s how the Don’t Knows becomes committed Ayes.

The media has a role to play in our decisions on Scotland’s Future. But the traditional outlets are being found wanting, found out. And they’re failing us every bit as much as the Labour Party and it’s Scottish representatives. Word is out. There is nowhere to hide, not any more.

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