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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Put Paxman on your pod

By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor

  • First of all, thanks very much - great effort! You may remember last week I asked for your help in propelling Frankie Howerd back to his rightful place at the top of the BBC's ratings.

    Jeremy Paxman and an iPod
    In the words of Jeremy Paxman, 'a new day has dawned, has it not?'
    The idea was that if enough of you who subscribe to our e-mail clicked on Stephen Smith's feature about Frankie's lovingly preserved pad it would go straight in at number one in the chart of most-requested video. Well, we made number four, which makes it the second-highest rating Newsnight item ever on the web, beaten only by that Pete Doherty interview.

    If I'm honest - and with great respect to Messrs Howerd and Smith - that was really a warm up for the main event. Because I can now announce the arrival of the long-awaited Newsnight podcast.

    Copyright issues have been resolved, technical glitches sorted and presenter re-educated in the ways of the 21st century.

    On Budget day I really did have a conversation with our programme producer about whether to run the disturbing images of a moose trapped in a motor car on a Massachusetts freeway
    In format our podcast is pretty straightforward - it's a compilation of the best moments from Newsnight over the past week. Rather like our sister programme Weekend Woman's Hour, without the items about 19th century social reformers. Or, as Jeremy puts it, a lot like TV without the pictures.

    Included in our first edition are Jeremy's electric debate about accusations of illegal killings by US troops in Iraq featuring the former SAS soldier Ben Griffin; Shadow Chancellor George Osborne on whether reports of the death of Punch and Judy politics have been exaggerated, and our Newsnight Review panel's verdict on the new Prince album. As the ever-enthusiastic Kwame Kwei-Armah says - man, it's funky.

    Drop the dead moose

    The reason we're so interested in chart positions is not so much cynical ratings chasing, more to do with the fact that feedback data from viewers is now so sophisticated that by studying it we can aim to give you more of what we know you want.

    A moose
    On Wednesday Peter Barron was totally moose-less
    Interestingly, the feedback shows that what TV viewers and web users want are not always the same. On big news days they tend to converge, but on other days the most unusual - normally visually striking - stories can top the web chart. And, since we know a lot of Newsnight viewers are also web users, we try to work the odd one into the programme.

    So on Budget day I really did have a conversation with our programme producer, Robbie Gibb, about whether to run the amazing pictures of the cat who survived a 90 foot fall or the disturbing images of a moose trapped in a motor car on a Massachusetts freeway.

    Initially I favoured the uplifting tale of the cat (and Newsround went that way too) but in the end we agreed the moose's dark Absurdist allegory was more Newsnight.

    But I never felt comfortable about it and, as the Budget debate overran, I pressed executive override and said probably for the only time in my career: "Drop the dead moose".

    Mason's motorcycle diaries

    Paul Mason
    Paul Mason's blog has begun life in Bolivia
    If you think that's all a bit tawdry, let me introduce you to another new feature on our website - our Business Correspondent's new blog, entitled Idle Scrawl.

    Paul Mason's high-minded, not to say obscure, writings this week deal entirely and at some length with the situation of peasant workers in Bolivia. In an earlier film for Newsnight Paul revealed a hankering to be the young Elvis, and I think it's pretty clear there's also a Che Guevara thing going on here.

    So far, Paul's blog has not created so much as a blip on Technorati, but come Latin America's internet revolution he may yet have the last laugh. That sleeping giant of a continent has a population of 500 million people, of which more next week.

    But, as Jeremy will say, how many of them pay the licence fee?


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