MADELEINE MCCANN AND NEWS
The Madeleine McCann story has become a news phenomenon, holding the interest of the public day after day after day. Even when there is little to report, stories about the McCanns top the most-read lists of online news sites. And when, as over the last few days, there are genuine developments, the Madeleine story is, news-wise, the only game in town. I hope someone at Hitwise or Nielsen produces some analysis of the Madeleine effect on news websites.
It's the same story with newspapers, of course. Here, courtesy of Mailwatch are a few recent front pages from the Daily Mail and the Express.
The 'quality press' has gone to town on the story, too, filling page after page with speculation and, that traditional standby of the broadsheet, articles that hypocritically decry the nation's obsession with the story, while simultaneously fuelling it.
Taken in the round, the media coverage of the case is not a terribly attractive spectacle and it's left many journalists feeling uncomfortable. I was talking to the head of one of the biggest online news organisations a few days ago and he told me that he wasn't at all keen on the blanket coverage of the McCann story and had been trying to scale it back, but the extraordinary level of interest in the story made it impossible.
It feels like a cycle of exploitation; the McCanns using the media for publicity, the media using the story to boost audiences, the public getting some sort of emotional fix out of the rawness and mystery of the tale and its thriller-like narrative drive. I sense it is going to continue at this pitch for a good while yet.