I have read some nonsense written about newspapers recently, but this post by Malcolm Coles takes the biscuit.

Malcolm’s big idea is that, if News International’s London freesheet, thelondonpaper, had a website with better search engine optimisation, it might not have closed. He bases his theory on a single fact:

With no meta description, google has to guess what to show in its results.

Oh, come off it. It doesn’t matter a monkey’s fleas whether thelondonpaper’s site has any meta data or not.

Why?

First of all, the paper’s main rival, London Lite, doesn’t have any meta data either – just a load of javascript and css info stuffed into the head of its landing page (take a look).

Secondly, and more importantly,  thelondonpaper had a very high profile in the capital. It’s not that the relevant advertisers didn’t know about thelondonpaper — indeed, it was even more visible than London Lite — but they simply weren’t willing or able to spend the money. Newspapers all over the place are dropping like flies, regardless of the quality of their meta-data, and I doubt a few well-placed tags would have helped redress a £12.9 million pre-tax loss.

Lastly, thelondonpaper is ultimately owned by Rupert Murdoch’s news empire. This is the man who is devising ways of making us all pay for quality news content online. It would be stupid of him to try getting Londoners to subscribe to his paid-for news sites, whilst giving away free paper editions of thelondonpaper.

£12.9 million is nothing to Murdoch, but strategy is everything. Where he sees a future in a publication — such as the Times — you get periodic price wars and the relentless poaching of decent journalists from rival titles.

So, forget the meta tags — thelondonpaper died because there was no future for it. And, I bet, it won’t be too long before London Lite breathes its last.