Many major UK media websites draw more than half of their unique visitors from offshore, according to web ratings service comScore, which reports:
…in April 2007 many of the UK’s largest traditional media sites attracted more visitors from overseas than from within the UK. comScore data revealed that online visitors from outside the UK outnumbered the domestic audience in the case of the BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Mirror and the Financial Times.
This isn’t too surprising to me, especially when those UK brands are so well-known. When I was at nzherald.co.nz, we also drew well over half our visitors from outside New Zealand. But it’s important to remember that we’re talking about unique visitors — many of whom came to our site via search engines or news aggregators such as the Drudge Report or Slashdot. Such readers tended to look at very few pages. Most page impressions, however, were delivered to local readers — people with a deeper and broader interest in the news we published.
There are a couple of challenges for websites that draw a substantial portion of their traffic from offshore:
- providing international bandwidth [which in New Zealand was far more expensive than domestic]
- selling and geo-targeting ads to be seen by offshore readers [unless domestic advertisers are happy to pay for international impressions, and this certainly happens]
It’s amazing how unresponsive some media organizations can become when they are called to account.
A case in point is a British website, guardian.co.uk, the online edition of the Guardian newspaper.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that a column by one of its media commentators, Rory O’Connor, sounded familiar. So I checked into it.
Sure enough, two passages in O’Connor’s column — one of them a very long paragraph of a hundred words — were virtually identical to a news release put out by Unesco a month earlier. If you’re curious, compare the extracts at the end of this post.
I raised the matter in the comments section of O’Connor’s blog, giving my name, as I always do, and my email address. My comment was duly published but there was never a response to my request for an explanation.
I then emailed the editor of the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section, in which O’Connor’s column had appeared. Again, no response.
Finally I emailed the Guardian’s “readers’ editor” on May 3, almost three weeks ago. I think that’s plenty of time for a response, and I’ve received none.
As a long-time journalist and editor, I find it astounding that a) the Guardian seems unconcerned about what looks like plagiarism, something most journalists regard as a cardinal sin, and b) that it doesn’t even respond to a reader’s legitimate question in a timely manner.
I’d like to close with two points:
- If a writer wants to use passages from a news release or anywhere else, they should always quote and acknowledge the source.
- Anyone who writes a “column” or “opinion piece” ought to be able to come up with original words to express original thoughts — that’s really the whole idea of being a columnist, or a blogger for that matter.