The Grey Cardigan: 15 June 2007

HOLA! And welcome to the newsroom of Los Noche Beastio. I’ve come over all foreign because we’ve just had another of those interminable Powerpoint presentations to the staff much loved by the suits and spinners of our management team.

This one was designed to show us how vital it was that our newspaper should have an online presence, and how essential was our continued investment in electronic media to the future prosperity of the business. (Sub text: Your pensions are at risk, you Luddite bastards.)

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way. The spokesweasel, a glib little twat from head office, unveiled slide after slide of statistics, many of them even spelt correctly.

Page impressions, hits, unique users, download customers… to be honest, it was going over our heads, and particularly over the head of Mungo, our peripatetic alcoholic Glaswegian sub who inhabits his own, personal, ciderspace.

But then one figure shone through. Up came a slide appearing to show that 67 per cent of the regular users of our website are based abroad. Half a dozen hands shot up.

The head office geek, momentarily stunned by this sudden interest, confirmed that yes, that was indeed the case. And these people get free access to the site? Oh, yes. (The other 33 per cent are presumably hacks from the local radio and TV stations, nicking our stories.)

The sharks circled the lone swimmer. In the corner of the room the Boy Wonder, our schoolboy editor, blinked like a rabbit in the headlights. The Brute, his deputy editor and hired muscle, glared at the assembled throng, projecting malice and menace in equal proportions. But the game was afoot.

The presentation didn’t last much longer, because here’s the unpalatable truth. Our newspaper, a viable, profitmaking business, has been raped and pillaged to fund this electronic excursion.

We have lost staff, editions and offices. We have sacrificed the core product of our business (and God forgive me for using that terminology) to create a presence on the worldwide web that is… well… completely unprofitable.

Because Joe Bloggs, latterly of this parish but now ensconced in a Brits only development near Torremolinos, isn’t going to be responding to the small ads for a Gobbling Teasmade or a ‘wedding dress, size 20, never used”.

He’s only logging on to read our crime stories and so validate his decision to decamp to a life of greasy full Englishes, Spanish bureaucracy and the overseas version of the Daily Express, complete with Diana splash.

And John Doe, stranded on a sheep farm in Wogga Wogga, might just bookmark us, but only when he’s tired of searching Google for ‘Emily+Big+ Brother+naked”.

He may even click on our risibly named new property site – Gerbil24/seven4U – but only to confirm that he can never, ever, come home again.

And here’s another thing. We’re not charging estate agents to stick their properties on Gerbil24/seven4U – they wouldn’t pay anyway – but we’re going to charge them £50 for every viewing appointment booked through the site.

Now we’ll never know if people actually turn up to these appointments or not, so we’re relying on estate agents to voluntarily bill themselves. It’s a bit like asking Louise Woodward to babysit.

So the principal beneficiaries of our electronic largesse don’t pay a penny for the service and don’t – or can’t – respond to our advertisers. Brilliant.

And for this we’ve not only thrown out the baby with the bathwater, but also chucked the fucking bath out of the window as well.

Once again, brilliant.

IT COMES to something when one of Fleet Street’s finest is taken to task by a moral crusader of the stature of …err… Jerry Springer.

But that was the fate that befell Piers Morgan (who, it should be pointed out, still owes me two grand) during a recording of the America’s Got Talent show on which dear Piers is the ‘Nasty Brit’judge.

What upset Mr Springer is that Piers had reduced a six-year-old girl to tears, rubbishing her Beyoncé impersonation and blaming the child’s mother for being too pushy.

Dear Jerry, clearly unaccustomed to such nastiness, cried: ‘Stop it! That’s wrong,’later adding, ‘You do not attack a six-year-old. You can’t invite kids on the show and then attack them for coming.”

The over-the-top, pantomime villain comments are believed to be part of Piers’ desire to be despised. I think I can reassure him, on behalf of his many former employees, that he doesn’t have to try that hard.

MORE accurate than the Met Office, more reliable than pine cones and seaweed – it’s the patented Grey Cardigan long-range weather forecast.

And I can reliably inform you that summer is officially here, after three – count them – THREE pregnant weathergirls were spotted on assorted BBC channels in the past week.

And meanwhile the people of Anglesey don’t know if it’s going to rain or fucking snow.

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