The Dirty Underbelly of British Tabloids And Their Football Transfer Gossip

The reason why you don’t find too many articles about transfer gossip on EPL Talk is because most of them are bullsh*t. Most of the rumors in British newspapers are fabricated to increase circulation numbers and pageviews. It’s a sleazy side of journalism where newspapers and media sources are keeping a close eye on each other’s transfer gossip. If one writes a story about a club rumored to be interested in signing a footballer, it doesn’t take long before the other British newspapers and TV media jump on the bandwagon. And before you know it, soccer blogs and websites around the world spread the rumors to a wider audience, making people start believing that the rumors are fact because they see them everywhere.

In the example of one club, Swansea City, several of its players have been touted over the weekend as potentially moving to bigger sides. The Daily Mail reported on Saturday that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is ready to sign central defender Ashley Williams as cover for Daniel Agger, who may be moving to Manchester City. That same day, The Daily Mirror reported that Scott Sinclair is a target of Manchester City, who is seen as a cheaper alternative to Theo Walcott.

Neither story contained any sources or quotes. And both stories could have easily been written out of thin air. Maybe they had a source that tipped the writers off to the story, or maybe they didn’t.

To make matters worse, The Daily Mail is using search engine optimization (SEO) to increase pageviews from bogus stories.

On Thursday, The Daily Mail ran a story with the headline “Allen Closing In On Anfield Switch As Liverpool Agree Terms With Swansea Midfielder.” Yet again, there was no source listed to confirm that terms had been agreed. There’s been no confirmation or denial from either club involved about Joe Allen. It seems like a completely bogus story. Yes, Liverpool is interested in signing the player, but terms have not been agreed.

So, how did The Daily Mail manipulate SEO to garner more hits to their page from their “story”? If you go to the article, and then look at the top of your browser, the description for the page (better known as the <TITLE>) reads “Joe Allen agrees terms with Liverpool.” For a search engine like Google, the <TITLE> is one of the most important attributes of the page. Do a search in Google for “Joe Allen agrees terms with Liverpool,” and The Daily Mail appears as the number one listing. Click on the ‘Tweet’ button on that same article page, and the pre-written tweet reads “Joe Allen agrees terms with Liverpool.’ Read the RSS feed for The Daily Mail, and the headline appears as, you guessed it, Joe Allen agrees terms with Liverpool.

Joe Allen has not agreed terms with Liverpool, but I’m sure that The Daily Mail got a ton more traffic instead of using a more accurate headline of “Joe Allen closing in on Anfield switch.”

Yes, Liverpool is interested in signing Joe Allen. And Swansea is interested in selling him for the right price, but that doesn’t mean that The Daily Mail should go ahead and manufacture a story to generate more pageviews.

The example of Joe Allen is one of literally hundreds to thousands of other similar transfer gossip stories that are written to drive traffic. But they work. Many of us eat them up, but they’re often not called out for it. Is it any wonder then that The Daily Mail has now surpassed The New York Times as the world’s most popular online newspaper?

The only way to stop these bullsh*t stories and tactics is to stop buying their newspapers and to stop clicking on their stories. Eventually they’ll get the message. The hard part though is learning to separate truth from fiction. Sometimes The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror do run legitimate articles. Perhaps the answer then is to trust that Internet readers will become savvier readers? Whatever the case, the sooner the British tabloids stop this nonsense, the better.

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  1. Yespage August 6, 2012
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