Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Page Three

Not a subject that appeals to me, but the recent Twitter debate over the Sun's famous (infamous?) page 3 imagery, of at least thirty years' vintage now, has prompted our local Ginger Liberal to write on the topic. I suggest you read what he has written, as it seems (to this novice) to be considered and reasonable.

The only reason I am picking up on it is because it is a good reminder of how markets operate. If people don't like something, they won't buy it. In a market such as newspapers, appealing to the lowest common denominator will always give the best chance of high sales.

When I worked at ASDA by Bridgewood roundabout, I normally dealt with receiving, checking and putting out for sale the Saturday newspapers. Believe me, this was the largest number of the week, with Sunday coming second. Here are the quantities of each Saturday paper, in alphabetical order, all taken from memory (I'm a little uncertain about the Independent and Daily Star figures – and now The Guardian which I had omitted by accident, but the others are all spot-on)...
  • Daily Express –35
  • Daily Mirror – 90
  • Daily Star – 40
  • Daily Telegraph – 65
  • Guardian –55
  • Independent – 30
  • Sun – 530
  • Times – 45
Note the vast gulf between The Sun's figure and everything else. Its sales were also helped by the TV Guide magazine that came with it, covering almost entirely the soaps and reality shows (especially Big Brother). Again we see the lowest common denominator tactic working for the title – but all of it works only because there are all those people out there who buy that stuff.

That is the lesson that all those outraged or otherwise upset about The Sun's success need to learn – especially as it's all such old hat now anyway. If there had been a genuine problem it would have been dealt with decisively many years ago.

The truth is that it's primarily the working class males who have always bought that paper, especially during the years it supported Tony Blair, and any sudden initiative of the kind that apparently raged on Twitter a couple of evenings ago was probably instigated by those with a political agenda who are now anti-Murdoch because The Sun switched sides. After all, that war has been going on ever since that happened (but not before, note) as evidenced by the activities of those such as Tom Watson.

Thus the Page Three business was, in all probability, just the next stage in that political battle – although it might have been nothing to do with it. That seems unlikely, though it would have been well camouflaged so not immediately obvious.

Anyway, it's yet another non-story in practice. I avoid that paper myself, partly because I am not keen on under-dressed females. I just don't find it appealing; and if something happens in a place I can't avoid, I deploy one of my optical tricks, called a travelling matte.

This obscures part of my scene of view, has variable opacity and can 'pixellate' the obscured part if wanted, and of course it 'travels' with the subject it is obscuring. It is why in such situations I usually appear to be looking in a 'funny' direction, seemingly at nothing. A couple of people have noticed this, but when asked I usually brush it off with something about my poor and one-sided eyesight. It's very difficult to explain, actually...

Oh yes, and the naming of 'Uncle Travelling Matt' in Fraggle Rock was almost certainly a TV industry in-joke!


  1. I presume you were allowed to boycott the Guardian as the foaming at the mouth was considered unattractive to the customers!

  2. Y'know, I thought I'd missed something from that list. I think I just have a bit of a mental block with The Guardian – entirely their own fault.

    I add them to the list when I can think how many copies of that we used to take. I can mentally picture the display now...


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