Trivial Posts #29: To Be Read In The Style Of Clive Anderson

A slightly delayed Trivial Posts this week, but it’s still full of the best stories, links, and articles that I’ve found online this week. You can sign up to have this posted out to you every week, subscribe to the newsletter version here.

Who’s Line Was First Anyway?

They might be ten-a-penny on panel shows and in comedy clubs, but when did the lust for improvised comedy start in the UK? John Dowie discovers the first giants for Chortle… Jim Sweeney and Steve:

Just as the Sex Pistols had inspired a generation of kids to form bands, so Alexei Sayle inspired a load of performers to crawl out of the comedy woodwork. An Alternative Comedy Circuit was formed and Jim and Steve were performing in it, taking suggestions from the audience, then acting them out. And always brilliantly. Many of us wanted to know ‘how they did it’. The only way to find out, they told us, was to do it. The Rupert Pupkin Collective was formed, a free-form outfit comprised of whoever came along that night. Shows were staged at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden. The only rule was that there were no rules. There were also no ‘theatre games’.

The Pioneering Giants Of British Improv

Your Super Soaraway Search Engine

A long time ago (in digital terms), The Sun went behind a paywall. Recently it decided to ditch that model and start with the ad-supported model of publishing news. It started with almost no search-engine power because of the paywall blocking everything. What happened next? Jessica Davies looks at the modern day way of building traffic:

News UK chief customer officer Chris Duncan likened the feeling of The Sun shedding its paywall, to “coming blinking back into the light.” But The Sun has been busy and, with the help of Facebook, has soared in traffic. “Having been absent for a few years, we’re now right back up,” he said. The traffic speaks for itself: Today, The Sun has 20 million monthly visitors (compared to a couple million last December) — just 7 million shy of Mail Online in the U.K., according to comScore.

How The Sun Used Facebook

Show Me (Thirty Percent Of) The Money

Staying with monetising the news, David Pidgeon reports on the income the Guardian receives from people buying advertising on the website. In true MacGyver fashion, the Guardian did this by buying advertising on its own site to watch the flow of the cash.

“There’s leakage. The money that goes in is not the same as the money that goes out,” Nicklin said. “There are so many different players taking a little cut here, a little cut there – and sometimes a very big cut. A lot of the money that [advertisers] think they are giving to premium publishers is not actually getting to us.”

Nicklin said the Guardian had purchased its own ad inventory to try and assess where the money was spent across the entire supply chain and saw, in some instances, that only 30 pence was making it back to the publisher.

Where did the money go? Guardian buys its own ad inventory

When One Man Can Make A Difference

There’s rather a lot of polling going on in the United States at the moment, and huge decisions are made on the output of these polls. Why do the opinion of 19-year-old in Illinois change the polls so much that he can be responsible for a percentage point shift in a poll of 3000 people? Nate Cohn (no not that Nate) investigates for The New York Times:

He’s a panelist on the U.S.C. Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Daybreak poll, which has emerged as the biggest polling outlier of the presidential campaign. Despite falling behind by double digits in some national surveys, Mr. Trump has generally led in the U.S.C./LAT poll. He held the lead for a full month until Wednesday, when Hillary Clinton took a nominal lead.

Our Trump-supporting friend in Illinois is a surprisingly big part of the reason. In some polls, he’s weighted as much as 30 times more than the average respondent, and as much as 300 times more than the least-weighted respondent.

…How has he made such a difference? And why has the poll been such an outlier? It’s because the U.S.C./LAT poll made a number of unusual decisions in designing and weighting its survey.

Distorting National Polling Averages

But Not Inverted

How do you make an eclipse last seventy-four minutes? You borrow the first Concorde prototype, crank it up to mach 2, and sit in the shadow till you run out of potential runways to land at. Chris Hatherhill looks at a lost moment in aviation history for Vice.

The plan seemed deceptively simple. Closing in at maximum velocity, Concorde would swoop down from the north and intercept the shadow of the moon over northwest Africa. Traveling together at almost the same speed, Concorde would essentially race the solar eclipse across the surface of the planet, giving astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to study the various phenomena made possible by an eclipse: the ethereal solar corona, the effect of sunlight on the darkened atmosphere, and the brief red flash of the chromosphere, a narrow region around the sun that’s usually washed out by the much brighter photosphere.

When Astronomers Chased A Total Eclipse In A Concorde

Quick Links

Thanks to the trailer for Top Gear Two (sorry, The Grand Tour, having the same initials cut confuses me), I’ve spent most of this week with The Kongos ‘Come With Me Now on loop. I’m expecting to see official Amazon Music playlists pop up after each episode of TGT.

Is putting on a good dance enough to find success at Strictly Come Dancing? Eleanor Chalkley investigates for Keep Dancing.

What I’ve Been Up To

A quiet week on the content front, just two big pieces to draw your attention. The first is a review of the latest Pebble Smartwatch, imaginatively called the Pebble 2. The second is the regular news podcast for the Eurovision Song Contest as countries continue to decide how to select their songs for the Contest in May.

At the start of November  I’ll be attending the Web Summit (Lisbon 7-10 November 2016), before heading to Malta for a week of radio broadcasts (more on that in the near future). December will see me in the capital for TechCrunch’s Disrupt London (5-6 December 2016). Next year’s plans include attending SXSW (Austin, 10-20 March 2017). If you want to meet up at any of these events, let me know.

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.