The Sun’s digital editor Keith Poole has criticised social media platforms for getting in the way of quality journalism.
Speaking at Press Gazette’s Digital Journalism Summit panel on growing a digital audience, Poole likened social media platforms to house party gatecrashers.
Criticising the effect of search engine and social media algorithms on journalism, he said that platforms would offer to give people a lift to the party and decide not to drop them off when they felt like it.
In his speech, Poole said: “Nobody comes into journalism to sit behind a desk and write ‘What time is X Factor on tonight?’ or rewrite eight agency stories in a shift.
“I’m not saying this isn’t valuable journalism, because it does entertain, it does inform, and people do want it.
“But crucially, these are stories that every publication has got. Where is the time to hold power and hypocrisy to account?
“As an editor of a free website, do I send a reporter out on a three-week original investigation that might not come off, be killed by lawyers or read by no one because it has been strangled by an algorithm?
“Or do I sit that reporter behind a desk for three weeks, guaranteeing that they can generate a tonne of page views?
“When will social media platforms recognise the cost of quality journalism?”
Continuing the house party analogy, Poole argued that platforms made “paying the DJ the hardest bit” of the journalism business.
He told the summit, that the Sun saw section page views rise by 40 per cent when it offered articles on the Facebook Instant Articles service – a news platform that operates within the social network.
When the tabloid removed the section from Instant Articles, it saw traffic drop and made more revenue, he said.
Facebook claims that instant articles load faster and reach more of its users, but advertising revenue on the article is split between the publisher and social media platform.
Speaking about the trade-off between traffic and revenue facing major publishers, Poole said: “Many publications go for smaller, more engaged audiences that they may even charge. But the Sun can’t just invite six friends round to a dinner party, with intimate, good conversation, and an exclusive feel.
“We’ve done all the planning, moved the sofas, got the drinks in, bought some big bags of Doritos, but we’ve barely been left with enough money to pay the DJ.
“Paying the DJ is the hardest bit, and we’re used to having Fatboy Slim not Dave’s cut-price dodgy disco.”
Inews head of audience development Luke Lewis and Vogue head of audience growth Sarah Marshall also featured on the panel.