Grey Cardigan: March issue

This is an extract from the Grey Cardigan’s column in the March issue of Press Gazette.

SO THERE I was, standing by the Evening Beast’s environmentally-friendly tea urn that no-one can work, discussing credit card rates and the World Wrestling Federation with Britney Spears Naked and Barack Obama … oh, sod it, I can’t keep this nonsense up.

Yes, dear reader, I’ve been got at by Press Gazette’s webmeisters and instructed to make more effort to get popular keywords into this column. Apparently it’s something called Search Engine Optimisation which increases the traffic to the website. I’m even led to believe that some titles employ people specifically to re-write intros to insert such words. I wonder what Giles Coren thinks about that?

I did protest, but in vain, the editor of this organ being quite abrupt with his star columnist. (He’s been very tetchy of late. When I remonstrated with him last week about failing to check out a story quickly enough, he replied: ‘I’ve only got two fucking reporters to chronicle the demise of an entire fucking industry.’Or words to that effect.)

But I thought I ought to make an effort, if only to prolong my employment for as long as possible in a month when hundreds more hacks are facing the axe. So off I trotted to the website www.journalism.co.uk/36/105 , where I was told there was a useful guide for online subs. My God, now I know what those chaps on the Empire Windrush must have felt like when they docked at Tilbury: the sheer shock of this Brave New World was terrifying.

Take this: ‘HEADLINES: Online headlines and page titles inform search engines, which then reward you with search traffic. Search engine bots do not rank for wit and wordplay so, until then, the SEO style is to be straightforward, factual and short.”

No wit or wordplay? What is an old hack, schooled in wit and wordplay to do? And whither one of the best newspaper headlines of recent times, penned by subs on The Sun after minnows Caledonian Thistle pulled off a shock win against the mighty Celtic? Go on, stick ‘Super Cally go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious’in your sodding search engine.

If you want to know what’s going on at the Evening Beast, or read the secret Newsquest memo, you’ll have to subscribe. Follow the links.

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