Daily Express redirects searches to owner's lottery

Heavy cross-promotion.

The Daily Express screams from its front page today about "OUTRAGE AS THE NATIONAL LOTTERY DOUBLES PRICE OF TICKETS AND CUTS PRIZES".

The Daily Express, lest you forget, is owned by Richard Desmond, who also owns the Health Lottery, a major competitor to the National Lottery. The proprietor has taken every opportunity for cross-promotion between these two venerable brands, with headlines like NEW LOTTERY TO MAKE BRITAIN BETTER, as well as LOTTO TONIC FOR BRITAIN in its sister paper, the Daily Star.

(The lottery itself has come under fire for giving just 20p in the pound to charity, compared to 28p in the pound from the National Lottery).

But suppose you want to read the Express's story on the National Lottery. It's on the front page of their site, but quite small, and below the fold. You may just find it easier to search for "Lottery" on the main site search. But that won't quite do what you would expect. Go on, try it. See if you find what @ropestoinfinity did when he pointed it out on Twitter.

Searches for "lottery" redirect to the Health Lottery's homepage. There's not even any pretence that they are separate institutions. The Advertising Standards Authority might have something to say about that; but then again, maybe not. Last time they responded to complaints, they pointed out that, since the health lottery and Express are technically different companies, the advertorial wasn't really advertorial. Will the Express get away on a technicality again?

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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