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Social Media Debate: Russell Brand Vs The Sun

Social media has born witness to a more than it’s fair share of feuds, many of them on Twitter. To use a cowboy analogy, the social network can sometimes be the internet equivalent of a saloon duelling ground. One particular example that springs to mind is the war of words between Russell Brand and The Sun newspaper…

To give you some background, the Sun claimed that because the comedian could afford to rent in a trendy part of London, he wasn’t fit to make comments about the lack of affordable homes for the working class. The newspaper dedicated two front pages in a single week. The first of those labelled him a ‘hypocrite’ for the reasons mentioned above. The second, a damning indictment stating ‘The Nation Speaks’ – suggested the public was on the side of the tabloid with 68% of people saying he was a hypocrite, and 64% saying he wasn’t funny.

Had the nation truly spoken?

In terms of publishing, at the time The Sun’s circulation stood at 1.9 million people, whereas Russell Brand’s latest book ‘Revolution’ had so far sold around 50,000 copies. But on social media, Russell had 8.6 million followers, 13x more than The Sun’s 655,000 as well as 2.9 million Facebook users, almost double the newspaper’s 1.7 million. Regarding regular viewers, the comedian has nearly 100x more subscribers to his channel where he hosts The Trews, than The Sun’s equivalent.

Social media backlash

In the aftermath of the second front page ‘The Nation Speaks’ coming to press, a tidal wave of people immediately took to Twitter to weigh in and mock The Sun’s stance that ‘my opinion has been decided for me’. The hashtag #TheSunLogic began trending and gained an enormous amount of attention from public figures speaking out over a range of issues from politics to wealth that the paper themselves had been guilty of hypocrisy. So while the newspaper had a greater circulation with regards to print media, the huge numbers in favour of Russell in the online world illustrate just how far we’ve come in terms of new media’s ability to influence a debate.

The falling popularity of print media

The popularity of newspapers has dropped in recent years for a number of reasons. In a bygone era, publishing was every business’s second business. Today, it’s every person’s second business. But print media doesn’t have to die; what it has to do is adapt and evolve in to something else, something relevant. You don’t have to be a media mogul to understand why tabloids feed on this kind of sensationalist narrative. Yet their attacks simply aren’t connecting in the way they used to because of platforms such as Twitter that undermine these transparent campaigns of hate.

From a marketing perspective, Brand really nailed it. His conversation was two-ways allowing his audience to feel connected and appreciated – something traditional newspapers have struggled to master.

Photo Source: By English: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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