The problem with print by Tony Hodson – Former editor of Sport – @tonyhodson1
I recently saw a job description in which the hiring company referred to themselves as, among other things, producing ‘viral videos’. I smiled, then sighed. Referring to the making of viral videos in the same way you might a bacon sandwich surely misses the point? Slap a couple of rashers between some bread, and you have something that is going to get eaten. Simply filming some kind of content and then throwing it out to an audience that may or may not exist doesn’t guarantee a single person will watch it.
A week later, I went viral. Noticing that Jamie Carragher looked ready to knock an interrupting Jamie Redknapp’s block off during some post-match analysis on Sky, I rewound, filmed a 17-second clip of Carragher’s fury on my iPhone SE (that’s right), and threw it out on Twitter. Cue 1.4 million impressions, almost 8,000 retweets and my bearded mug credited across various media owners scavenging for easy wins.
Here it is. Carragher ready to kill Redknapp. pic.twitter.com/d9xp5KYfCi
— Tony Hodson (@tonyhodson1) March 12, 2017
The irony didn’t escape me that, having spent almost four years as editor of Sport, during which I’d have killed for anything the team did to amplify our content or brand, I had nailed it a matter of weeks after the mag, a labour of love for more than a decade, had been closed.
Nailed it for a day or two, that is. As my phone exploded with notifications, the rush was surprisingly great – an instant and intense gratification at how many people were viewing and enjoying my ‘work’, in stark contrast to the relatively slow-burn consumption of the magazine. Three days between each weekly opus being completed and then read on the streets, trains and planes of London felt almost archaic – Sport, like so many other print titles in our crazy modern world, suddenly seemed a throwback to the days when an Ashes tour of Australia kicked off with a month on a big boat.
Such is the increasingly unbearable strain on a print media unable to keep up with the relentless pace of digital, in a world where anyone and everyone is a producer, curator or owner of content – and, crucially, so few people now want to pay for it. The inevitable dilution of quality is only accelerated by decisions such as the Telegraph Media Group’s recent move to cull 20 subeditors from its staff.
Despite this, I’m not one of the doom-mongers insisting print is dead. You only need to consider the impact titles such as The Sun and Daily Mail had on last year’s EU referendum to understand the enduring power of the printed word, and there remain a huge number of talented journalists – a small selection of whom were part of the team at Sport – doing incredible jobs across sport, politics, news and beyond.
But, a hallowed few excepted, it is no longer enough to be only a print journalist. Diversification is the key to surviving and thriving in modern media, as social channels explode in directions and across platforms that were barely even germs of ideas when I started out in publishing in 2002. That’s the challenge craggy old sorts like me – still three years short of 40, note – face as we look to our next move in an industry reaching peak levels of dynamism and change.
I am very proud of all my sensationally talented, dedicated team and I achieved across a decade and more at Sport, but it is time to move on and I am looking forward to a new challenge. If anyone’s interested, let it be known I’m a specialist in viral.