Monday 9 May 2011

The royal wedding gave the Guardian a 100,000 sales boost despite revolting its republican readers

Some Guardian readers were revolted by the paper's coverage of the royal wedding but it pushed up sales by more than 100,000 copies, readers' editor Chris Elliott reveals in his Open Door column today.

Elliott writes: "Complaints to the Guardian's readers' editor, and the paper's letters' page, about the royal wedding coverage convey a general sense that the Guardian has betrayed a long-standing history of republicanism."

He says that the he Guardian didn't really declare in favour of a republic until 6 December 2000. On that day, in a leader timed to coincide with the Queen's speech, it called for the abolition of the Treason Felony Act of 1848, which inhibited any real argument against the monarchy.

Nevertheless, there's been some strong reaction. Open Door quotes one reader: "I was shocked when buying Saturday's Guardian to see 'Free royal wedding souvenir supplement' across the front page … Could these not have been put into the supplement? I could then just have thrown it away. I have to say I felt short-changed skipping the first 15 pages of the paper before I found anything worth reading. I paid for those pages!

"I would have preferred to read in the news pages some more in-depth coverage of the stories that matter: the police clampdown on protests, the Facebook purge, the republican events taking place around the country, the NHS story that the government tried to bury. These are genuinely significant and important stories.

"But there is a deeper issue here. I have considerable brand loyalty to the Guardian. I buy it because it reflects my values. I define myself as (among other things) a Guardian reader. To me, the Guardian is not just another newspaper: it's a community of people who keep me informed about the things that matter, share my values and give me a voice.Yesterday, you informed me about things that don't matter, trampled on my values, and gave me no voice. It would not be exaggerating to say that I feel betrayed."

But Elliott writes: "It's hard to judge the social and cultural significance of a "happening", which pushed up sales of the Guardian by more than 100,000 on the day after the wedding, and which led to more than 3 million people visiting the website on the wedding day. Journalists can, on occasions, lead readers, but cannot wilfully ignore events that can create such a powerful response.

"The website, on which there was even more excitement than in the paper, was able to have its cake and eat it. There was a button on its news front page for those who couldn't stand any more – when pressed, all royal coverage disappeared.

"The Guardian also did some tongue-in-cheek merchandising. Maybe one T-shirt slogan summed up the paper's ambivalence: "Smash the monarchy … but first look at that lovely dress."

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