diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 11, 2017

20 reasons why you should unfollow @Londonist on Twitter...

(and follow @londonistlatest instead)

1) So far this month, Londonist.com has published 67 new articles. So far this month @Londonist has tweeted 216 times. That's the issue in a nutshell.

2) So far this month, Londonist.com has published 67 new articles. So far this month @londonistlatest has tweeted 67 times. That's the solution in a nutshell.

3) Top London website Londonist has been on Twitter since March 2007, and has tweeted over 67000 times. For many years @Londonist was well worth following on Twitter, with links to just-published posts, and jolly banter. More recently, however, Londonist's Twitter feed has become a dumbed-down stream of clickbait, with increasingly less relevance to the stories being published on its website. Londonist on Facebook has been going much the same way, but I'm not on Facebook, so I'll focus on Twitter in what follows.

4) As I reported a couple of months ago, Londonist's published content is evolving. It doesn't do news any more, indeed it took a whole day to get round to referencing the Westminster terrorist attack. It does a lot more about food and drink and history than it used to, and a lot less about transport, politics and the arts. It features a lot more sponsored content, not just in bespoke posts but also for example by inserting Deliveroo links into several of its older articles. It also pumps out lots of montages of photographs nabbed from the web - back in January once a day, currently twice a day - because these are damned cheap to produce. There are still several excellent articles on Londonist each week, but not as many as there were, and they're harder to find.

5) One particularly relevant change is that the Londonist website has become increasingly impossible to navigate. The latest posts are now buried on the homepage underneath links to 24 older 'Highlights', and all the website's chronological archives have been disabled. This has made social media hugely more important, because this is how the vast majority of readers arrive at a story, clicking on whatever tempting link Twitter or Facebook has chosen to serve up next. Nobody reads the website any more, they simply land on individual pages as instructed.

6) Londonist currently has 1,139,159 followers on Twitter. That's a massively impressive number of people, accumulated over several years, but now being treated as a valuable resource to be exploited. Whenever @Londonist tweets something, 1,139,159 people might then click through to the website, especially if someone can make the tweet sound enticing enough. And that's precisely what the person in charge of the Twitter feed is up to, because clicks mean ad revenue, and revenue keeps the website afloat.

7) On average, based on activity this month, I've calculated that the Londonist website posts about 10 new articles every weekday and only a couple at the weekend. But over the same time period my survey shows that @Londonist tweets about 20 times a day, irrespective of whether it's a weekday or not. That's quite some differential, and the surplus is being filled with sponsored tweets, summary tweets and tweets to old stuff. Especially tweets to old stuff.

8) An astonishing 47% of Londonist's tweets so far this month have been links to articles that are more than six months old. I've clicked through to check them all, aided by the fact that Londonist stopped using date-specific web addresses last October. A quarter of this month's tweets have been to posts from earlier in 2016, 10% have been dragged up from 2015, and the oldest resurrected article was from July 2011. Londonist has a fabulous archive of posts, which the current management is prioritising over the new stuff, purely to get their money's worth.

9) Yesterday's tweets were peculiarly archive-heavy. Of the 19 tweets pumped out on Monday 10th April, 16 were links to posts more than six months old, two were links to a Things To Do list, and one was to a sponsored post about cycling. Even though nine new posts were published on the website yesterday, @Londonist's tweets were trawled from the archive with nothing fresh added, which does seem shamelessly exploitative. One particularly feckless tweet asked "Did you know Hounslow has nine museums?", illustrated by a photo of a mill in Bow, and linking to a post from last August. It's as if whoever feeds the instructions into the automatic Twitter scheduler has given up.

10) You may not want to read the old stuff in the latest tweets, but remember that @Londonist has 1,139,159 followers, and not all of them saw it first time round. You might not have seen it first time round either, in which case you might be glad of the reminder, but the heavy load of repeats can get somewhat tiresome. If only there was a way to read just the new stuff without all the background noise, you'd no doubt prefer that. And now there is, and it's called @londonistlatest.

11) @londonistlatest sprung into action on Twitter on February 24th this year. Since then it's tweeted every new post Londonist has published on its website, and nothing extra, which is a total of 373 tweets so far. I think it works automatically, checking the sitefeed every few minutes, and tweeting the new post's title and a photo shortly afterwards. It's definitely an official Londonist Twitter feed, because the first 8 followers were Londonist staff, and they've since been joined by a handful of astute readers who've noticed the occasional sneaky retweet.

12) @londonistlatest hasn't yet been officially promoted, which is odd, given how useful it is. At time of writing it has only 67 followers, which is an astonishingly low number, and that's after six weeks of operation. I assume it's been set up because somebody at Londonist has recognised how convenient it would be to have an undiluted feed free of filler, much like things used to be. And I assume it hasn't been promoted because it helps for commercial reasons if the masses stick with the bloated, commercial-friendly @Londonist stream.

13) On @Londonist there's a better than 50% chance that the article being linked to has been tweeted before, be that because it's old, or because it's a sponsored post that someone's paid to be repeated. One of the joys of @londonistlatest is that each post only gets tweeted once, minutes after publication, with no repeats. Imagine following a Londonist feed where you can guarantee you won't have seen the article before, how novel would that be? It might be years since you've had the level of certainty afforded by @londonistlatest.

14) Although the @Londonist feed is run by a marketeer, @londonistlatest is pure and automated. There is no middleman, only the titles of the posts you might want to read, allowing you to make up your own mind rather than reading teaser text. If the title starts "In Pictures:" you know it's one of those compilations of dozens of photos nabbed from the internet, and you can give it a miss. If the title says "Fabulous Food And A Petting Zoo At Boxpark This Easter Weekend" you know a gushing sponsor is involved, and the post is best avoided. But if the title says "Co-Living Spaces: Modern Utopia Or Over-Organised Hell?" you might think this more worthy of a read, and you'd be right.

15) Although @londonistlatest tweets new articles pretty much immediately, my survey shows that @Londonist has a deliberate timelag built in, generally 48 hours or more. Less than a quarter of Londonist posts get a mention on @Londonist on day of publication, while the remainder are held back for at least two days, often three. This means Monday's posts tend not to get tweeted until Wednesday or Thursday, Tuesday's posts not until Thursday or Friday, and one post the other Saturday took five days to merit a mention. So engrained is this delay that a post entitled "10 Exhibitions To Look Forward To This Month" first appeared on the Londonist website on 30th March, safe in the knowledge nobody was reading it there, until eventually tweeted two days later, bang on schedule.

16) 10% of the tweets on @Londonist at the moment are sponsored tweets, often linking to a post on the Londonist website whose PR-friendly copy has been written by a grinning minion. But approximately once a day @Londonist dares to serve up a tweet which links directly to an external website, most often a Deliveroo restaurant, or perhaps to Londonist's long-term sponsor Funzing. They don't care how many times you see this stuff, however bored you might be getting. You don't need this crap in your timeline. Follow @londonistlatest and you'll never be diverted to a paying customer elsewhere.

17) When you followed @Londonist on Twitter, probably several years ago, it was a quality feed worth following. And you're still following, because inertia is a wonderful thing, and because many of the links you click on still lead to excellent articles. You might have wondered why some of the stories seemed so familiar, or were clearly out of date, but the occasional fresh diamond keeps you hanging on. Your loyalty is being manipulated.

18) If you're interested in why Londonist has been changing, it's because they've been taken over by the management from Handpicked London. Handpicked's Twitter feed @LDN is a long-standing parasitic service, matched on Facebook, which uses simple short phrases and pretty photos to link to content they've appropriated, and hence makes money from the click-throughs. But now they own Londonist, the @Londonist Twitter feed has dumbed down to resemble the @LDN Twitter feed, and the two are now virtually indistinguishable. If you're following @LDN and @Londonist you're being spammed twice, and @LDN has 951,802 followers, so you quite possibly are. I'd unfollow @LDN immediately.

19) So far in April, only 25% of the tweets on @Londonist have been links to articles published on the Londonist website in April. So far in April, 100% of the tweets on @londonistlatest have been links to articles published on the Londonist website in April. Your choice is clear.

20) What you need to do is unfollow @Londonist (and follow @londonistlatest instead). They have a million ignorant followers, so they won't miss a few hundred smart ones.

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