Stupid Media Watch: UK Flooded with ... Oh, Wait. Never Mind
By Ken Magill
The consumer press has got an anti-email-marketing narrative and they’re sticking with it.
The most recent example comes courtesy of BBC News in a story headlined: “Spam and e-marketing complaints rise by 43% in the UK.”
“Complaints about spam and other unsolicited electronic marketing in the UK jumped 43% last year, says the Information Commissioner's Office,” the story began.
The use of percentages in headlines and lead sentences is always a warning sign. They usually mean the actual number isn’t all that impressive.
Lo and behold, the actual number isn’t impressive at all.
“The ICO says it received 7,095 complaints in the year to March,” the story continued.
That’s 7,095 complaints out of a population of 62.7 million.
What’s worse, trade publication BizReport—which claims to deliver news and insight for online marketers—picked up the story yesterday and led with the following:
“Spam emails, automated telephone calls, unwanted mobile text messages and live cold calls by phone are dogging the British public.”
Dogging? Really? In comparison to the population, the number suggests the emails and calls are barely noticed by the British public.
BizReport’s lead was at least somewhat more accurate than the BBC’s. The headlines on both stories would lead the average reader to believe that complaints over unsolicited email are skyrocketing in the UK.
But it turns out that email spam accounted for just 14 percent of the complaints—fewer than 1,000.
Automated phone calls accounted for the largest percentage of complaints: 35 percent. Unwanted text messages came in at No. 2: 29 percent. Live phone calls accounted for 19 percent.
So telephones were involved in 83 percent of the complaints, and yet somehow we get spam headlines anyway.
And it’s not like they missed the story completely—which is that despite receiving more than 7,000 complaints, the UK’s ICO has fined not a single company.
They both covered that angle. They just didn’t lead with it. Apparently spam is sexier than a lack of prosecution over unwanted telephone solicitations.
Let’s try to write our own headline and lead and see if we can make it work:
7,000 Marketing Complaints and Counting;
ICO Has Yet to Punish a Single Offender
Despite receiving more than 7,000 complaints over unwanted telemarketing calls, text messages and spam, the Information Commissioner’s Office has yet to fine a single offender, the BBC has learned.
That really was not hard.