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The “merryneum” and the news agenda

By Patrick Southwell:


Welcome to Christmas hinterland. Population: not sure. Day of week: dunno. Turkey availability: potentially. State of mind: what mind? Like a black hole, it sucks in everything and from the outside appears dark and empty.


Once here, you're a hiker without a compass, a drone without a gyroscope. Aimless and amply gorged on beige food and mountains of cheese. Not to mention the booze. Côtes du this, Châteauneuf du that. Eggnog anyone?


It’s an odd time of year and one that has long been ignored. Some call it Twixtmas. Susie Dent, lexicographer, etymologist and star of Countdown branded it “Merryneum” a few years back. Why? Because it’s the bit between Christmas and New Year. A bit like a certain part of human anatomy that sits between one place and another. If you’re not sure, Google it, but don’t blame me if it’s NSFW.

Childish wordplay aside, this post-feast point in the year is interesting for PR people, because it has a news cycle all of its own. It’s characterised by junior freelancers sitting on national news desks, hungry to get their name out there by trawling social media for stories of festive woe. There are also annual articles on the New Year Honours list and lots of syndicated news from the Press Association.


Anyone who still gets a physical paper will notice they’re wafer thin this time of year. Circulations are low and the Daily Mail took advantage of this to run its front-page apology to Meghan Markle.


Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, such as the Boxing Day tsunami. However, there’s generally less news about and the PR industry tends to shut down between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.


It’s the only time of the year you’ll see journalists tweeting about needing news instead of fighting off the barrage of emails and calls from anxious account execs with an in insatiable thirst for coverage that’ll never be slaked.


This might be just the time of year to get your story out there. I once got a piece about payment regulation on the front page of the FT on 31st December. It was clearly a slow news day.

Next year, why not see if you can chuck a story out the door in the merryneum. There are lots of people sitting about reading online if not print news, and little to fill the news agenda (pandemic aside). Perhaps some Christmas-related data? For example, how many people did something out of the ordinary on Christmas day pertinent to your brand.


Luckily, you have a year to come up with something. Or, of course, you could get someone to give you a hand. Nudge, nudge…


Anyway. I’m off to drink too much port, eat all the stilton and pad about the house wondering how much weight I’ve put on.


What day is it?

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