If we call Clarkson racist, what word do we use for Boko Haram? – Comment – Voices – The Independent


Thus, we could say to the latest verbal offender, it is not because we’ve glimpsed the hem of your bigotries that we are incensed by you – indeed we possess identical undergarments – but because you think we love it when you tease us with the prospect of your showing more. It’s not that you’re a bit of a racist so much as that you’re a bit of a whore.

As for Clarkson, it has always seemed to me that his real crime is to be interested in cars. Not just interested in cars in the way he is, as though they are a definitive badge of masculinity, as though the idea of a man unexcited by cars is inconceivable, as though the din and roar of them must be of universal male appeal, as though driving a car up a slope – sorry, up a hill – represents the ne plus ultra of human achievement, but just interested in cars full stop.

via If we call Clarkson racist, what word do we use for Boko Haram? – Comment – Voices – The Independent.


The secret of Top Gear’s success: double cream


“The BBC would say, ‘You should get Professor Suchabody on talking about the environment’ and we would go, ‘F**k off, he can have the Ten O’Clock News’. Do the Two Fat Ladies say,’And if you want to have a low-fat version of this recipe you can use single cream’? They never do. They go, ‘Pile it on; heart attack now’.”

via Top Gear: why we’re mad about the boys |
Television & radio |
The Guardian

Food advertising v reality


I love this kind of thing. The Guardian’s Lifestyle section has a gallery of photos of convenience and fast foods as portrayed on packaging and in advertising and how they look in real life. It’s important work, and one of the better uses of the internet. I’ve seen all the German food pictures before, but the Guardian are also asking for reader-submitted photos.

Would make for a good class project, since you’ve mostly all got camera phones and eat a lot of junk food.

My best experience was in the Quick burger chain in France, where they use a cardboard tube around the burger so that it emerges from the box looking just like the photo. My favourite is the Quick’n’Toast. Quick rules.

Clarkson in the, er, manure


There is nothing not to like about this story.

A group of what Clarkson might call eco-mentalists has visited what the media call his Cotswold home and dumped a little bit of manure on his drive. Which he probably will, genuinely, love, and put on his roses.

Jeremy Clarkson targeted in manure dump protest by climate campaigners.

This is all relevant to media studies because it relates to the Lifestyle topic. In order to understand why people won’t – by themselves – do anything serious about the environment and consumption of petrochemicals you have to understand the appeal of Clarkson. There are some nice quotes, like this:

The seven campaigners, dressed as suffragettes, arrived at the automatically opening wrought iron gates of Clarkson’s Cotswold mansion outside Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, in a van fuelled by chip-fat oil.

And this:

[Clarkson’s] views on people standing up for environmental causes have offended a wide cross section of Britain. He once described ramblers as “urban communists”, cyclists as “Lycra Nazis”, and people working for transport pressure group Transport 2000 as “ugly”. Women, ethnic minorities and others have all taken offence…

His attitude to nature is also eccentric. He has questioned why Britain has so many hills, proposed that great white sharks should be eaten to extinction, been excited at the thought of Birmingham being covered by a glacier, rammed a car into a tree and driven up Ben Tongue, a Scottish mountain, in a 4×4.

Clarkson. An equal opportunities serial offender. The comments thread on the Guardian story is, as ever, is well worth a read.

Too fat to be a model? The picture that caused a storm in the fashion world


One wouldn’t have thought this would be news. As Miller says, “pretty much every picture in a magazine or ad is airbrushed . . . I don’t think the public understands how much smoke and mirrors are involved in making women look like that.”

Too fat to be a model? The picture that caused a storm in the fashion world – The Guardian.

August round-up of media stories


Here are a few stories I’ve been sitting on for a while:

  1. Mountains Out Of Molehills | Information Is Beautiful
  2. Newspaper ABCs. This is an interesting story. Although newspaper circulation figures have been steadily falling anyway, a lot of figures have been artificially inflated by means of the inclusion of “bulks”: giveaway copies you might find on planes, in car showrooms, and elsewhere. A lot of newspapers are stopping the practice, while others have been negotiating with the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) over, ahem, exaggerated figures. Peter Preston: Fleet Street loses out in complex numbers game

    The Mail has bailed for a better figure by adding 24,000 or so “bulk” (giveaway free copies), while the Indy has accentuated its plight by knocking 9,000 off its bulk mountain. And this is only the beginning of a complex saga as the Guardian and Observer, shedding over 20,000 bulks between them in July, declare that henceforth they will renounce bulks entirely.

    Both papers are acting forthwith. This means July’s already diminished 9,000 and 12,000 copies respectively, given away free to punters on airlines, trains and the like, will no longer form part of overall claimed sales when August’s results arrive. No padding left. If the Telegraph did likewise, its UK sale would be 669,000, a full 93,000 gone in a trice, and the Times would dip below 500,000.

  3. ITV is still the best place for mass-market advertising: Response: ITV is still the UK’s top peak-time channel

    ITV1 is the home of the top five new dramas on any channel in 2009, including Whitechapel, Above Suspicion and Unforgiven; in comedy, ITV1 again tops the charts with Harry Hill’s Bafta award-winning TV Burp and the critically acclaimed and hugely successful Benidorm; and we are rightly proud of our record-breaking entertainment hits, whether it’s Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor, or Dancing on Ice, I'm A Celebrity … and Hell’s Kitchen.

  4. Microsoft successfully launches on-demand TV: Microsoft’s MSN Video Player nears 170,000 show views in first 11 days
  5. A university study of mobile data reveals interesting patterns of behaviour. Also, that people (as they ever did) mis-report their activities, depending on their attitudes towards them: Mobile data show friend networks
  6. Here’s one for debate: an opinion piece at newsless.org on what’s “missing” from the news. A bit US-centric, but could be relevant: The 3 key parts of news stories you usually don’t get at Newsless.org
  7. A documentary film about advertising: Art & Copy Film.
  8. It’s a fact that more equal societies are happier societies. Our very unequal society is a recipe for widespread misery – at both ends of the economic scale. Human beings are social animals and we are most fulfilled when we collaborate and share. Here’s a heartening series of articles on the GOOD blog about why we like to share:
    We Like to Share
  9. Finally, I hope it hasn’t escaped your notice that the Murdoch news empire has plans to charge for online content. Some of you know my opinion about online newspapers (I think they should keep 90% of their content for the print edition, and radically reduce the amount they publish online). What do you think about free newspapers? I never pick one up when I’m in London, and it all seems like a colossal waste of paper to me. Now the Murdochs have decided to close their London free sheet. It makes sense. If you’re going to stop giving away your content online, why continue to give it away in print? Down the drain: Why Murdoch closed the London Paper

    Given the advertising downturn, most analysts expect the London Paper’s losses over the past 12 months to have worsened. Douglas McCabe, a media analyst with Enders Media in London, says: “Murdoch is saying ‘enough is enough’. He’s saying newsrooms have value and by giving away free content you devalue them. It would be somewhat ambiguous to start charging for online news and still give away news in a free paper.”

Get your priorities in order, people


According to this story from BBC Technology, it’s becoming apparent that – even in a recession – gadgets take priority over almost anything except food. People would rather maintain their expensive iPhone contracts than have a two-week holiday or a meal out:

In a poll of 862 people, over 40% said they would save on holidays and eating out and 19% chose spending on mobiles.

This is borne out by profit-and-loss figures from technology companies. The industry has hammered Apple over the years for “only” having around 5% of the (enormous) personal computer market. But factor in that Macs last longer (more than twice as long as the equivalent PC) and get passed on more, the real market share is bigger. And factor in the price of the equipment, and it’s not surprising that Apple have over 90% of the $1000+ personal computer market. In other words, Apple tends to be recession proof, because people who spend over $1000 on a computer don’t tend to be the type of people that suffer in recessions. Incidentally, their share of the premium market just over a year ago was 66% – it’s now 91%!

Apple have always been happy to leave the low end of the market to Dell and the rest: nobody really wants those people as customers, because they tend to be a pain in the backside. They spend £300, on which you make less than £50 profit, and then they’re on the phone every five minutes with technical support issues.

So for Apple to be sitting pretty in the premium computer and phone market is a good thing, when you consider that huge numbers of people value their phone above almost anything except food. I suspect, also, that food is a lower priority for a lot more people than would admit it.

Media News Roundup


A few stories worth a gander:

1. Guardian Media Group ponders the future of The Observer, among other things. The venerable Sunday newspaper has an average net circulation of around 400,000, around 200,000 less than the Sunday Telegraph and a whole lot less than The Sunday Times, which has an average net of over 1.2 million copies. In a Newsnight report last night, former Sunday newspaper editors agreed that it would be wrong to single out The Observer for blame when it comes to the Guardian Media Group’s losses. But since The Obs was never part of the original Guardian Trust, it would be easy to shed. It’s doing a lot better than The Independent on Sunday (net circulation of just 162,000), and might be snapped up. (Note: Sunday newspapers have an interesting history, and were formerly unique and individual titles with their own traditions and views. They came into being because the traditional dailies refused to publish on the so-called Sabbath. From the start, then, unique Sunday titles had an anti-Establishment vibe, gaining a reputation for sensationalist and campaigning journalism. It’s a shame they all got absorbed into large corporates.)

2. Classic Silly Season story: an MP proposes that airbrushing in magazines aimed at under 16s should be banned. Of course, with Parliament not sitting she hasn’t really proposed this. She’s just taking advantage of the lack of hard news to voice her opinion. New regulations insist that when false eyelashes are used in mascara ads (as they are), then we should be told. It wouldn’t hurt for face creams and other makeup ads to include a little note saying: “model airbrushed”. It might stop a few teenagers from trying to cover their spots with makeup.

3. Another classic Silly Season story: Oxo on the hunt for a new “Oxo family”. Still interesting, of course, because the Oxo ads are always in the business of reflecting back at us an image of the “ideal” family and family lifestyle. It gets harder to do as our society becomes less homogeneous and family life more fragmented.