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I'm a journalist, ex-national papers, now working in what we call "new" media.

Here's an interesting post from Inksniffer, aka John Duncan, once managing editor of the Observer. He's delved into the thorny and opaque world of web stats and come up with some interesting conclusions.

His contention is that Internet metrics substantially exaggerate the importance of the newspaper web audience. His arithmetic, which seems unimpeachable, demonstrates that, for example, the Guardian, generally hailed as the great success of newspaper websites, has around 270,000 daily readers, compared with the 310,000 or so that buy the paper each day. Other sites, we may assume, are doing less well. This is in stark contrast to the audience claimed for newspaper websites, which are routinely denominated in the millions.

Why the discrepancy? Essentially, as John explains, because the web's currency of choice is monthly unique users, which in turn is probably because, in their infancy, internet companies needed to make their audiences look as large as possible. We're now hooked on these large numbers and unable to scale down to anything more realistic.

John uses his analysis to argue that newspapers are not doing anything like as badly as people claim and this is where I part company with him. Newspapers are in serious trouble and the fact that their websites are not performing as well as they would like us to believe doesn't change that unpalatable fact.

The biggest online sources of news are not newspaper sites at all but the BBC (streets ahead of the competition) and then the likes of Yahoo!, Google, MSN, AOL, Sky (with the Guardian somewhere in the mix). These are the places where an increasing part of the public gets its news, rather than from newspapers, or even their websites.
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Does Salman Rushdie deserve a knighthood for his writing? Probably not - or at least no more than several other unknighted authors. Rushdie is an important writer, though not to everyone's taste, and his early work such as Midnight's Children and Shame is his best. His later work is pretty ordinary.

But think back to 1988 and the publication of The Satanic Verses and the fatwa that was announced against Rushdie. Remeber how a succession of weaselly appeasers such as Douglas Hurd (though he was far from the only example) went out of their way to try to mollify the extremists, book-burners and would-be assassins, rather than standing up to them and bringing them before the courts. Hurd and his sort tried to distance themselves from the Satanic Verses and the Foreign Office brought pressure to stop the book being published in paperback. Meanwhile Rushdie went in fear for his life, for years.

I think the K should be viewed as an apology to Rushdie for leaving him high and dry when the fatwa was announced and a belated acknowledgement that freedom of speech and artistic expression matter.
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Not much to say about the latest catastrophic newspaper circulation figures except that the decline is turning rapidly into a collapse. Which will be the first paper to cease publication?
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Last night I attended a Media Society dinner in honour of Jon Snow. It was an altogether pleasant occasion, rather like a memorial service except that the subject was bouncing around being jocular, instead of lying in a box. The food was pretty good too. Peter Snow was the compere and short speeches were made by the likes of Helena Kennedy, Alan Rusbridger and the great Charles Wheeler.

There were a few digs at the Mail on Sunday, coupled with heartfelt tributes to Snow's honour and loyalty. However, to judge from Madame Arcati's blog, the Precious Williams story may have further to run.

Rusbridger's speech was quite amusing. Rather than relate anecdotes from Snow's career, he went on to Facebook and found all the nice things young people have to say about "J to the Snow", as he is apparently known. There is even a discussion group called "Philip Schofield and Jon Snow: TV's silver foxes".

Word of Rusbridger's interest has clearly got around, since Jemima Kiss mentions en passant that lots of people at the Guardian are signing up for Facebook today, presumably hoping to be poked by the editor.
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