The London freesheets and the web - Part 3: Voting

 by Martin Belam, 24 September 2007

Last week I started looking at how London's free newspapers incorporate online and user-generated content into their printed editions. So far I've looked at music reviews, and at films and celebrity gossip. In this post I want to look at how the papers handle something I've worked on a lot online - voting.


Of the three London freesheets, it is The London Paper that seems to have gone into reflecting their reader's views via voting in a big way.

In print, it uses provocative call-out boxes to pose a question designed to evoke a emotional response - "Is Pete Doherty the sexiest man in London?", or is "Facebook for losers?".

Is Facebook for losers?

These act as teasers to get people to sign up to The London Panel.

The London Panel site

Whilst The London Panel looks at some (semi-)serious issues, the other vote in The London Paper is anything but that, with the freesheet audience invited to nominate their pet as pet of the day.

Readers have to send in a picture of their beloved house-guest, with some indication of their likes and dislikes, and the paper expressly asks for JPEG images.

The London Paper pet of the day article

The individual entries into a user vote for the pet of the month - or "The Big Pet-Off" as the paper has it. They are seemingly undeterred by the fact that this makes it sound like a 'getting to second base' contest at a tweenage party.

Although entries are submitted via the web, the Big Pet Off vote is done by SMS, presumably to deter cheating and raise revenue at the same time.

The Big Pet Off

It isn't just pets who get voted on by London Paper readers however. Their guest columnists are judged by the readers via text message, and whether the writer ever sees their name in London Paper print again depends on the outcome of the "More or Bore" jury verdict.

In July I picked up a copy which had a rather dull article about whether sexy underwear was actually comfortable.

Pullquote about fancy underwear

Having had to read it a couple of times in the course of putting this article together, I'm hoping that the author of that was voted a bore.

More or Bore

The result of the vote is announced in the next days paper, and I was delighted last week to see that the rambling sexist nonsense published in the previous Friday's edition of The London Paper about women not understanding sport was voted 90% bore.

In the next part of this series I'll be looking at how all 3 of the London freesheets use sport as a springboard for interactivity with their audience.

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