No. 10 on TV

Boris Johnson is rumoured to be shaking up the lobby system with White House-style televised press briefings from Downing Street. Before the coronavirus lockdown, lobby journalists would attend two briefings from the No.10 spokesperson behind closed doors each day. But there are plans to broadcast the afternoon meeting to the nation with an experienced broadcaster at the helm, according to The Times and the Financial Times. The plan is set to come into force in October, with Johnson intending to hire a host and a team of producers in the coming weeks.

Lexington’s Senior Counsel Paul Harrison weighs in on the decision based on his experience as Theresa May’s press secretary:

‘At the most basic level, this represents a big change to the way the government will look and feel to the public. Whoever No. 10 choose as their new spokesperson will almost immediately become one of the most visible people in the entire administration — with significantly more media exposure than any of the Cabinet. 

‘Given the influence on evening news programmes the daily press briefings showed they could have, there’s a significant prize for Downing Street here to shape the news agenda. The risk — one I know personally — is that at times briefing the press is necessarily a defensive exercise, and, bluntly, that won’t always look tremendous on television.

‘Ultimately, successive governments have resisted this move. We’re about to find out if they were wrong to.’

Paul was on Gloria de Piero and Tom Newton Dunn’s Times Radio show on Sunday discussing the story, you can hear more of his thoughts on catch up at 2.50.

Paywalls prove popular

The Times’ online paywall turned ten last week, disproving the idea that ‘nobody would pay’ for general interest news, according to the paper’s head of digital Alan Hunter.

The Times was not the first newspaper to use the tool, but existing paywalls tended to allow users to view more articles for free before requiring them to subscribe. Conversely, The Times has only ever allowed registered users two free articles a week. Despite such restrictiveness, The Times has over four million digital subscribers as of March 30th, and has transformed from a lossmaking entity to generating £3.75 million per year in profit as of 2019.

The New Statesman has also demonstrated the viability of online paywalls. This week the left-leaning political magazine announced that all network advertising will be dropped from its website. In an article explaining the decision, Managing Editor Will Dunn said subscriptions were 300 percent higher in March 2020 than the previous year, even as the advertising market continues to decline, and that COVID-19 was accelerating these trends. The magazine also cited a desire to foster ‘high quality journalism’ by maintaining a professional brand which would attract a dedicated readership.

This week, Reuters also told employees it is planning on putting many of its articles behind a subscription paywall, making it one of the last free news services to adopt a subscription business model, a sign of how much the news industry has shifted away from relying on advertising. The current plan envisions putting all articles coming from specific coverage areas—such as energy, sustainability and its opinion content Breaking Views—behind a paywall by next February.

Ofcom: news consumption in weeks 1-13 of lockdown

Ofcom has published the results from week 13 of its weekly lockdown news consumption survey. The polling, which collates responses from around 2,000 people, comes as part of the regulator’s commitment to provide a range of information about how people are getting news and information about the crisis.

When asked about which news sources are being used to access information about COVID-19, respondants to the survey indicated that traditional media sources remain the most-used, as demonstrated in the following graph showing changes for week 1, 4, 8, 12 and 13.


A poll from The Sunday Times Scotland released yesterday shows the highest level of support for Scottish independence recorded by Panelbase for the paper.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Professor Sir John Curtice of Strathclyde University argues that “never before have the foundations of public support for the union looked so weak,” describing it as “the first time in polling history” that backing for Scottish independence has been ahead.



Sarah O’Connor will launch a new weekly opinion column in the Financial Times from 1st September, covering  labour and the gig economy with a particular focus on the modern workplace. She will pursue long-form stories on these and other themes.

Ido Vock has joined the New Statesman as an International Correspondent.

Victoria Lambert has been appointed Online Education and Careers Editor at The Daily Telegraph.

Simon Murphy has been appointed Political Correspondent at The Guardian for the next six months.

Mark Johnson is now an Education Correspondent at The Economist.

Nikou Asgari has recently joined the Capital Markets desk at the Financial Times, covering corporate finance and corporate debt.



If your organisation needs communications advice, or you would like more information about how Lexington’s team of media experts can support you, please contact Patrick Foster, Head of Corporate Communications.