Why are we surprised LADbible is in the daily COVID-19 press briefings?

When Simon Binns, editor of LADbible, asked a question during the daily Government coronavirus briefing last weekend it sparked surprise.

Why are we surprised LADbible is in the daily COVID-19 press briefings?

Many within the media, as well as those outside it, expressed their shock that LADbible had been invited to such an important event; let alone asked a much-needed question.

The question Binns asked relating to whether police had national data around dispersals, arrests and fines last weekend, and instead his appearance via video call became a talking point once the conference ended.

Yet why are we surprised that such an outlet should make an appearance at a serious event? As Binns himself said on Twitter, he didn’t win the opportunity to speak by chance; his journalism expertise spans more than 20 years.

The surprise and shock that LAdbible could be present at the Government briefing is telling and, as the media evolves and expands, it should be no surprise that titles considered less than traditional should take up position at events that affect their audience. If you want to reach a young adult audience, relying solely on the likes of The Telegraph and the BBC is unlikely to make a difference.

Yes, LADbible might still cover some topics that don’t appear to be examples of excellent journalism and hard-hitting research, but take one look at its social channels and it’s clear to see that it knows how to engage its audience.

On Facebook, posts cover a range of topics from food and alcohol to home decorating and acts of human kindness; and all achieve engagements of thousands of likes and comments. If a post covering how a new father out of work due to coronavirus won £2.5m on the lottery can have a reach of 12,000 likes and 274 comments, then surely this outlet can be used to increase the reach of important government messaging?

Young adults and young men, in particular, have been identified as the group most likely to flout the social distancing rules; a group that has been notoriously hard to reach via traditional media.

The first weekend in April in Manchester, the police were called to more than 600 social gatherings as young people continued to ignore the government measures on social distancing and slowing the spread of COVID-19. The audience of LADbible, which has an audience of more than 39 million on its Facebook channel alone, is primarily young adults; so surely it makes sense to use its influence and reach to drive the official messaging home and ensure this behaviour stops?

Admittedly, in the past LADbible might have been known for some less than wholesome content, including ‘Cleavage Thursdays’ and The SlagBible, which was the original name for its sister website Pretty52 – now called Tyla.

Yet in recent years the content has grown up, the titles have expanded to include UNILAD, FOODbible and then some, the editorial teams have grown to include some excellent journalists and editing talent, and campaigns have been created to focus on important topics including men’s mental health, suicide rates and also, most recently, how coronavirus coverage can make an audience feel and help to tackle the anxiety surrounding this lockdown period.

Its latest campaign, 'Cutting through coronavirus', directs readers to features that have facts and stories from those qualified to comment or who have experienced the virus or its effects first-hand.

This stance ensures scaremongering, of which many media outlets are guilty, is avoided and articles can remain informative and clear. After all, isn’t information what most people want during this lockdown? If younger audiences are struggling to take in the messaging of 'stay home and stay safe', then clearer messaging is needed.

Niamh Spence is a senior account manager at Manifest Manchester who also works as a freelance journalist

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