When asked to describe a book, you would say that it’s for children or for fans of horror, science fiction, romance etc. Identifying the reader is the best way of defining the book itself. The same is true with all media including news sources.
The Times is aimed at the ABC1 market sectors. This is easily demonstrated by looking at three factors:
NMA.co.uk is a great source to find out who is buying a newspaper:
http://www.nmauk.co.uk/nma/do/live/factsAndFigures?newspaperID=20. From the figures we can see that The Times isn’t gender biased, with female readers accounting for 40% of the total. But when we look at the social class of readers, it becomes clear which way the scales tip:
It’s important to consider the fact that this classification system would make a pyramid if it were to be depicted according to population. That is to say that the AB group includes the fewest people and DE the largest. Yet AB accounts for the largest portion of The Times’ readership.
This link explains the ABC1/C2DE social classes: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Modules/aueb/comm-internet11.html
Business and politics usually dominate the front page of The Times, except in the presence of breaking news such as developments in war, natural disasters etc. Television-based content, such as the reality TV coverage so prominent in the tabloids, is kept to a minimum and away from the front of the paper.
The sections in the paper (main news, business, money, culture and so on), are separated in a similar manner to chapters in a book. While sport coverage is fairly extensive, it has its own pull-out magazine so that it can be removed if the reader is not interested.
From these observations it is reasonable to conclude that The Times is aimed largely at business readers and those of above-average income. The order in which the stories appear is self-explanatory, and the measures taken to make the paper easily navigable suggest it caters for those who may be short of time but wanting more than a casual read, perhaps searching for something specific. A removable sport section that can be discarded or saved for another time is noteworthy; it suggests that the publisher wants to include comprehensive sport coverage but wishes avoid irritating a business reader when time is short.
Another method of identifying the target audience of a newspaper is to look at the advertising. Prominent adverts in The Times include Tiffany & Co jewllery, Patek Phillipe watches, BMW cars, smartphones, laptops, Savile Row suits and landlord insurance. The brands which use The Times as a vehicle to market their expensive luxury items and business-related products give a clear picture of the kind of people at whom the newspaper is aimed.
I contacted the advertising department of The Times and requested a rate card. Although the 12-page document I received does not exactly spell out the nature of the target audience, the pricing for adverts in the different sections does give some clues. The Sunday Times provides us with a useful model, as it is has several magazine supplements. We would expect the advert pricing in each magazine to be proportional to its popularity and importance.
Having seen this, it probably won’t surprise anybody to hear how The Times sells its audience to advertisers:
The number one quality daily newspaper in terms of business readership – The Times is read by 1.8 million people – over 1.7 million on a Saturday
Number 1 daily for business. More readers than the FT and Daily Telegraph combined. One in five business people read The Times.
86% of readers are ABC1. The average income of a Times Reader is £34,000.
Number 1 for ABC1 adults aged 25-44
Number 1 for adults earning over £50k pa
Number 1 for C-Suite Executives
(Sources: http://www.nicommercial.com/timesmedia/products/the-times and http://www.nicommercial.com/timesmedia/products/the-times)
I spoke to The Times’ advertising department and asked him how advertising prices have changed as reading the news online becomes more popular. I was told that that while it’s no secret that things are shifting that way, the paper still generates 88% of their advertising revenue.
I also asked how advertising affects the news agenda. They said that they don’t allow the paper or journalists to be compromised by advertisers, then gave examples of things other newspapers would do for advertisers which The Times won’t. One example was making their masthead purple in support of Cadbury’s. Another was advertorials, though curiously there is a costing for advertorials in the rate card.
BBC Radio 5 Live
I listened to the morning news bulletin each day in order to get a feel for both the delivery and the running order. I have logged the running order of three consecutive days:
Radio 5 Breakfast News
1. Will banks have to pay back overdraft fees? Supreme Court
2. Children to be taught about domestic violence. Education
3. Cockermouth Floods.
4. Attempted murder of Police Officer. Crime.
5. Investigation of protest control by police.
6. New powers for Scottish Parliament. Politics.
7. Planting trees to combat climate change.
8. Queen goes to Bermuda.
9. Sport. Football and tennis.
1. Enquiry into decision to go to war in Iraq.
2. Police DNA database criticized.
3. Conservatives promise to cut greenhouse gasses by 10%
4. Cumbria worried about more floods.
5. Ofsted criticized. Education.
6. Balance of power in commons criticized.
7. LHC turned back on. Science.
8. British actors win prizes at Emmy Awards.
9. Sport. Football and tennis.
1. Safety checks on bridges in Cumbria
2. Search for missing woman in South Wales who fell into river
3. MP home flipping
4. Shootout between police and dissidents in Belfast
5. Four men arrested for terrorism offences
6. CBI annual conference. Recession.
7. Chairman of Iraq War enquiry speaks.
8. X Factor Twins kicked off.
9. Sport. Football and Tennis
We can see from these that Radio 5 is big on politics and often takes the political angle on stories. When discussing the Cockermouth floods, for example, the stories tended to focus on the way the government is dealing with the problems rather than the affected individuals. Business news is strong as well, but doesn’t quite receive the emphasis that it does in The Times. It’s interesting to note that Radio 5 gets priority for the BBC’s breaking news reports. This makes it clear that it is the BBC’s centre for radio news and is aimed at people who always like to have a finger on the pulse of national and international news and sport. Radio 5 is designed for active listeners; people who pay attention and process the information, rather that those who just want music or background noise.
We can see that the news bulletins to occasionally touch on TV to add lightness, but this coverage is kept brief and is low on the agenda. What is not shown on the diary is the audience participation. Phone-in sessions are frequent and lengthy; real effort is make to engage the listeners.
Both The Times and BBC Radio 5 Live give the impression that they take their journalism seriously and wish to delivery news of a high and mature standard. While The Times is clearly aimed at ABC1 readers, Radio 5 is likely to have a wider range of listeners due to the extensive sports coverage, as this will help it to transcend the perceived barrier between ABC1 and C2DE. They also both aim and claim to be politically neutral, but most people would agree that due to the nature of their target audiences they are likely to be slightly right of centre
I enjoyed both news sources, and while I am a regular reader of The Times I have ever before given much time to Radio 5 as I am not a big sports fan. This shows a misconception on my part as there is clearly more the station than I thought. I will certainly be listening to Radio 5 more in the future. I think this has been an excellent project that taught me to be critical of news and consider it in detail. It also led me to discover a radio station I had previously avoided and to which I shall continue to listen.