VF: Prince Harry & Meghan want to use Instagram to circumvent traditional media


Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in South Africa

I’ve been slightly surprised to see the lack of follow-up reporting on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s lawsuits against the British tabloids. Meghan is going after the Mail on Sunday, while Harry seems to have joined a class-action lawsuit against the Daily Mirror, The Sun and the defunct News of the World. There’s a lot of hand-wringing and nasty comments from the royal reporters, of course, but where the legit follow-up? It feels like people are holding their breath to see what’s next. Katie Nicholl at Vanity Fair decided to push a very strange angle on all of this – her sources (??) tell her that Meghan and Harry aren’t simply trying to push back a caustic, racist and toxic press with legal action, they’re also trying to, like, change the way the media functions. In general or just regarding royals? I don’t know and neither does Nicholl. You can read her latest piece here. Some highlights:

The goal of the lawsuits: It is all part of a carefully considered plan to circumvent the traditional press machine and rewrite the rules of how royals interact with the media. According to royal insiders, Harry and Meghan don’t just plan to take on the tabloids in court; they are on a mission to redefine how the press operates—and they have a secret weapon to aid their mission.

They have a dude who Instagrams: Enter 26-year-old David Watkins, a former employee at Burberry who was hired by the couple this past summer to help run their Instagram account and who is transforming coverage of the Sussexes. “For them, the future is Instagram over the press,” said a source. “They are reaching a global audience that’s more than the broadsheets and tabloids combined, and crucially presenting themselves the way they want to. As far as Harry is concerned, it’s a way of cutting out the mainstream press, which is very convenient because he basically hates the press. Whether they win or lose the case, Harry’s intent on paying the press back for what they did to his mother, the endless scrutiny into his private life, and now their vendetta against Meghan. This is payback time, as far as Harry is concerned.”

Harry has loathed the press before Meghan even happened: Even before his relationship with Meghan began, Harry was rumored to have plans to phase out royal reporters and photographers by taking control of his own image via social media. In private, the prince would gleefully predict how the royal rat pack’s (the term given to royal reporters and photographers) days were numbered because “social media is the future.”… While Meghan has previously said she does not read tabloids, Harry does, and he even reportedly reads the comments.

The Future IS the ‘Gram: Instagram remains their plan for the future, and the reason they hired a full-time social media manager. Scooping the press with breaking news and exclusive pictures and footage on Instagram, the Sussexes have started using their own social platform to circumvent more traditional press and P.R. The couple announced the birth of their son to the world on Instagram, and during their recent tour in South Africa, reporters on the ground were given a heads-up that Archie would be meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but were asked to adhere to an embargo. Within moments, though, Harry and Meghan had shared footage of Archie—his first public appearance since his christening—to their Instagram Story. “The fact that there was an embargo was ludicrous,” said one royal reporter. “They were meant to agree to an embargo on a story that the Sussexes were streaming to millions of people online. Suffice to say, the reporters broke the embargo on their Twitter feeds and hit send on the story.”

Press complaints: Veteran royal photographers have also privately complained that Harry and Meghan are making them “redundant” by using their own photographers and excluding them from some engagements. “At the root of all this is their plan to shake things up,” the royal source added. “Harry is not afraid to take the media on. He feels like he has nothing to lose.”

[From Vanity Fair]

Not to rain on Team Sussex’s parade, but… William and Kate were doing this before Meghan even came around too. The level of stage managing for the Cambridges’ public appearances was getting ridiculous, and they also started limiting press access to events and then releasing their own KP-approved photos and videos online. I think the Cambridges aren’t getting credit for it because A) it’s now in the press’s interest to embiggen the Cambridges and act like they’re perfect and B) the Cambridges weren’t great at their “limiting sh-t to social media” thing. Harry and Meghan are GOOD at it. Kensington Palace was not – the photos and videos were often really low-quality and they just gave a really half-assed vibe to events that already felt half-assed in some cases.

So, do I think that Meghan and Harry seriously believe that they can permanently circumvent the press using Instagram alone? Of course not. No one believes that. But the Sussexes can definitely exert more control over their images and narratives around them using IG. And that’s what’s bugging the press too.

Lori Loughlin at arrivals for Hallmark C...

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle continue their visit to Africa

Photos courtesy of Instagram, Backgrid and Avalon Red.

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49 Responses to “VF: Prince Harry & Meghan want to use Instagram to circumvent traditional media”

  1. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Royal reporters are such whiny a$$ babies.

  2. HK9 says:

    Um-haven’t they already done that? I don’t go to VF or any other publication regarding the Sussexes-I go to their Instagram or Celebitchy. I haven’t read a royal reporter in months.

    • Birdix says:

      And I’m a former magazine editor/writer (arts-focused), now running social media for an arts organization. The landscape has changed, and the opportunities for storytelling are so different and compelling, particularly in an art form where incorporating video makes a difference. Although every time I’m stymied by something, my coworkers snarkily tell me to ask my teenage daughter.

    • (TheOG)@Jan90067 says:

      The only one I follow is Omid. I think he’s definitely Team Sussex, and I trust his tweets/reporting. The rest can take their racist BS and shove it.

      • Becks1 says:

        I think Omid is #teamsussex but he’s not anti-Cambridge – meaning that I think overall he’s pretty well respected and if he says something about a royal, I tend to believe it – whether its about Meghan or Kate. so many of the other royal reporters are so obviously pro-Cambridge/anti Sussex and it really comes out in their “reporting.”

      • VS says:

        Omid is fair; you can tell he likes Meghan but he is fair to the Cambridges too

        @Becks1 — the others are not pro-Cambridges; they are just using them to ‘beat’ the Sussexes. If they were pro-Cambridges, they would have been pro them before Meghan arrived. Harry marrying Meghan is the best PR that could have happened to the Cambridges despite their obvious laziness…….no one seems to care anymore how lazy they are. No seems to care than despite a 7 years head start, Meghan is outperforming Kate (not counting the 10 years of dating); no one cares anymore that PW is unable to come up with his own IG or Sentebale.

        Nowadays, it is more important
        1) to have regal air
        2) Pants were apparently against the royal protocol; now they are demure
        3) just be a mom with minimal royal duties; I wonder if being a mom excuse will be use for Meghan as well; I highly doubt it

  3. Loretta says:

    Bravo Harry and Meghan! Royal Reporters are so pressed, it’s funny to read them now. And they never now anything about the Sussexes project like the Ed Sheeran thing today LOL

  4. Becks1 says:

    I mean, obviously. Thanks Katie Nicholl for that hard-hitting reporting lol. It’s clearly a goal of both the Sussexes and the Cambridges to render the RRs as redundant and unimportant as possible. KP was doing it first, because they were first (wonder how much of that was Harry’s idea?) but I do think SussexRoyal is better at it (the Kensington accounts have improved a lot though.)

    That doesn’t mean there wont still be press, but it means they want more control of their image and don’t feel as beholden to reporters for that image as royals may have felt in the past. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    Also, “Harry reportedly reads the comments”? HI HARRY!!!!!!!

  5. MeghanNotMarkle says:

    I think they’re doing a good job of it. The RRs are simply whiny little brats because they’re not getting their way.

  6. TeddyPicker says:

    I also doubt H&M are so short sighted to think that they can bank their entire online presence on one platform. The tide is turning on so many of these platforms and Insta won’t always be the doyenne of celebrity social media. H&M seem limber enough to evolve with whatever the media landscape becomes.

    • Sunshine says:

      I think the Sussexes are actually trying to tame them by eliminating “leaks” and “sources.” Rendering all of that is reported in the rags as gossip rather that fact. Note – no one knew Ellen or Ed Sheeran visited them until they said so.

  7. M. says:

    Most of us knew this already. It’s the smart thing to do. The royal reporters and many of the news outlets can no longer be trusted. Fake sources, sensational headlines, and untrue stories are rampant in many publications. It’s very unfortunate how some reporters have used their freedom to lie and destroy lives.

    Traditional media is no longer needed. I think that is what scares reporters the most. They know Harry and Meghan don’t need them. The smear campaign failed because the Sussexes still have an enormous amount of loyal followers.

  8. Lenn says:

    You guys, did you see their latest IG-post?? Ed Sheeran ringing Harry and Megs doorbell! Or so it seems! What could this mean??

    • HK9 says:

      I saw it this morning and I can’t wait!!

    • Becks1 says:

      I’m so excited for tomorrow!!!! I feel bad saying that because I think its tied to World Mental Health Day, but that was the point of that sneak peek – to get people excited.

    • Abby says:

      yes I laughed at the doorbell chime. I wonder what’s coming up!

    • notasugarhere says:

      It might be Eugenie’s doorbell. Hanging over the fireplace behind Harry, there’s a giant photo of Eugenie on their wedding day. Jack might be in the picture too, but I cannot tell because of the reflection off the glass.

  9. Lorelei says:

    I mean, Katie Nicholl is just realizing this? It’s been clear since the day their Instagram account launched!

    ETA I just remembered that I recently saw Richard Palmer compare Harry and Meghan to Donald Trump w/r/t the “treatment” they want from the press. Which, while being low even for Palmer, shows even more than we already knew how bitter they are about it.

    • Becks1 says:

      nothing gets past KN. NOTHING I TELL YOU!!!!

    • Bella Bella says:

      The US “press” has given Trump a pass every step of the way. His unhinged incoherent rants are treated like normal press events, and the media continue to normalize his childishness, ignorance and lies. Harry and Megan should be so lucky to be treated similarly to Trump — then the reporters would accept everything the Sussexes do and never demonize Megan.

      • Nic919 says:

        If anyone is getting treated like Dump it’s the Cambridges. The rose affair was shut down with a letter and all UK media was afraid to say anything publicly. Melania and Kate get similar treatment too because they do so little and still get praised for it.

      • VS says:

        @Nic919 —— you are absolutely right; to be clear the royal gossipers are not even close (not even 0.0000000% ) to the work done by the White House press…..
        You are right because
        Kate is Melania and Meghan is Michelle; I remember the Obama years, my goodness, MO is one hell of a strong woman and for those who have met her, even if it was only briefly can tell you she is incredible!!!

  10. Neners says:

    The royal reporters see the writing on the wall. Harry and Meghan aren’t the first royals to use social media, but they definitely use it more effectively than anyone before them. And it’s true, they no longer have to cowtow to the press to get their narrative out and that is no small thing. The reporters have exacerbated the problem by being blatantly biased and untruthful. I no longer read articles written about the Sussexes because I don’t trust them.

  11. Alex Jones says:

    I hate how everyone is talking about how Harry and Meghan are ruining the symbiotic relationship the royals share with the press. To have a symbiotic relationship both parties need to gain and as far as I can tell the tabloids have made so much money off the back of Meghan. In return they’ve dragged painful family relationships out into the public, slammed her while pregnant and ridiculed decisions she’s made for her child. So what benefit are Harry and Meghan receiving from this relationship?

    • 2cents says:

      That is not a symbiotic relationship. The royal reporters are like a ring of parasites around the royals, harassing them like bugs, a pack of wolves wearing sheep’s clothes, who cosy up to them then bite and backstab them at every chance. Refreshing to see Harry and Meghan taking control of their image and doing an excellent job.

  12. TheOriginalMia says:

    Give credit where credit is due. W&K were manipulating their images long before Harry and Meghan. Can’t redefine your roles as senior royals by allowing the press pack to see you not doing your jobs. The embargoes and limited access to their kids have been going on for a long time. It’s just more lucrative to bash the Sussexes for doing the same things. Difference is…the Sussexes had no choice but to control their narrative when the press has chosen to side with racists and toxic relatives. The Sussexes also take pride in what they are putting out on their IG. It isn’t an afterthought. Theirs are professional products whose purpose is to advertise and support their causes.

    Suck it, RRs! You are becoming irrelevant.

    • Lorelei says:

      @TheOriginalMia yes isn’t it interesting how, when the Cambridges release their own photos taken and copyrighted by Kate (and in one case, one milestone photo by Michael Middleton!), the media’s reaction is how “sweet” it is. And H/M get trashed.

      • M. says:

        Don’t let those reporters fool you. They were turning on Will and Kate until Meghan married into the royal family. I’ve been reading royal stories since before the Cambridges got married, and there were quite a few nasty articles written about them.

        I’ve said this once before, and I will say it again: The American media is partially to blame for amplifying the negative Meghan stories. Years ago, royal stories usually circulated and remained within the UK. Now you have CNN, ABC, NBC, etc. talking nonstop about the royals. Some American magazines are even repeating unverified gossip from British tabloids. The problem is that everyone is trying to cash in on Meghan. She’s no longer treated as a human being.

  13. teehee says:

    Traditional media– what, horseback and scrolls?

  14. Lowrider says:

    The Sussex’s are not circumventing the media they are circumvent the TABLOID media. You know, the one that said Meghan is Straight outta Compton, tainting the bloodline and weaponizing her father to abuse and bully her.

    • L4frimaire says:

      Agree with this. I think they , especially Meghan, would be more open to high caliber press like NY Times or Guardian if the need or topic arose. They were quite open and engaged with international press on the tour. The tabloids and Royal reporters went full on negative with Meghan from the first day the romance as discovered, and have tried to undermine and disrespect her. There was no press honeymoon period, and there was snide comments about from the get go. Why cooperate with that? She stated quite clearly at engagement interview she was never a part of tabloid culture.

  15. Eliza says:

    I don’t think the UK press is fair to them. But I don’t agree that ANY government official (especially non-elected ones) should dictate their own narrative and cut off free press for “presenting themselves in the way they want to”. But I can’t see a middle path anytime soon.

  16. Mignionette says:

    Aside from the vitriol from RR’s this is actually a smart move.

    As the Cambridge kids come of age and Harry moves down the line of succession, Harry and Meghan will get less and less coverage to make way for the younger more exciting Royals.

    Getting your core base used to consuming your information on your own platform is the way to go.

    Granted Harry and Meghan will likely also always buck the trend of the spares due to the historical significance of their union. Meghan’s international reach will also always keep engagement up stateside and in the commonwealth.

    So good to start sooner rather than later.

  17. Maxie says:

    I’m genuinely interested to know what’s the job description of a full-time social media manager. Every daily IG post is probably authorized by a few people but what are they doing from 9 to 5? Report the trolls/threats and support Harry and Meghan’s charities?

    • Birdix says:

      Well, they’re only on one platform, while most are on at least 3. But the posts they are creating are not just a snap from a phone with a few words of text. There’s a lot of text, more like a short article, and carefully selected and produced photos. There’s planning involved, and scheduling. The social producer will be involved in analytics and “listening”. And yes, monitoring the trolls and removing many of the tags. On a longer term, they’re involved in coordinating the social media aspects of the partnerships the Sussex are involved in. And strategizing how the message will be presented in a fun, compelling way, with some gravitas, in this case. And keeping up with all that’s happening in their work (and professional life), so it can be presented well on social.

  18. Lala11_7 says:

    The fact that Harry is paying back the press for how they wrecked his life….and basically murdered his Mama….and are now slandering his Wife….

    I respond to THOSE ACTIONS…on an ELEMENTAL level….because I BELIEVE IN THAT CREED!!!

  19. STRIPE says:

    Obviously the racism aimed at Megan is inexcusable, full stop. Below is on The BRF feelings about the press in general.

    I find it an interesting dichotomy at the moment – How do you balance the public interest in what they’re funding (since the BRF lead a life of ultimate luxury funded by taxpayers) with the very real needs of a human being?

    I would love to know what British Bitchies think?

    • Abby says:

      (Not British) but I feel like the Sussex IG account does a good job of informing the public about what’s going on in their lives, with excellent info on the causes and history surrounding the events they’re doing. Even highlighting other important causes to support. I’d rather get info straight from them vs. wading through the mess of the RRs.

  20. jenner says:

    Hmm, not sure instagram is going to be the wave of the future, I see it as just another trend that will soon fade. Influencers are taking over, and people are getting tired of influencers and all the branded marketing.

  21. Aa says:

    What’s so funny to me is that Emily Andrews of the Sun used to openly talk on Twitter on how William’s lawyers would contact the Sun if there was any negative coverage. William and Kate press coverage was shaped by the constant threat of lawyers. She also admit she would even delete tweets because of William’s lawyers. Emily doesn’t talk about William’s lawyers anymore.

  22. savu says:

    It’s always felt like WILLIAM who truly holds a vendetta against the press in general. So much of what I’ve read over the last two weeks is like Mad Libs, just pick a brother. Harry is being blamed for a bunch of William’s baggage.

  23. Lisa says:

    I don’t blame them.

  24. Lily says:

    They don’t need the Royal Reporters at all. Their Instagram and the American media do a good job of keeping up with their schedules.

  25. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    When “traditional media” like Vanity Fair thinks South Africa still has a Prime Minister (they got rid of that office 35 years ago), then can you really blame anyone for not trusting traditional media?

  26. AprilMay says:

    Veteran royal photographers have also privately complained that Harry and Meghan are making them “redundant” by using their own photographers and excluding them from some engagements. “At the root of all this is their plan to shake things up,” the royal source added. “Harry is not afraid to take the media on. He feels like he has nothing to lose.”- They need to take a closer look at their account then- most of the pics are credited to photographers/pa. Their social media guy tends to stick to videos.
    Also the Cambridges have a social media manager too a guy named Adam. Hes worked there for a few years on their accounts and the Sussexes (work) too before they split.

  27. A says:

    I think the Sussex’s are doing this a lot better than the Cambridges. But everything else sounds about right if you ask me, which is strange given how you wouldn’t expect this type of analysis from Katie Nicholls. I do think that Harry wants to change how the media interacts with the royals. They have shown that this entire time. The fact that he’s willing to take on the tabloid press in this way is largely due to that I think. I don’t believe that Harry and Meghan are gonna be the heroic saviours in this regard, but I do think they’re part of a larger wave of antipathy towards the tabloids that’s only going to get worse from here on out.

  28. Rogue says:

    As long as no royal is restricting access to regular press to their engagements etc (unless it needs to be embargoed for a good reason) – I don’t see them using social media for eg more BTS footage as a problem.

    Using SM more is smart. Print media is dying so it’s a way to reach more people. Royals whose work isn’t coveted much by the press like Sophie Wessex could benefit from using SM more.

    Someone said on a post the other day that Harry & William should do more Q&As and I agree. The on camera interviews Harry& Meghan did on the Southern Africa tour were interesting. Shame some reporters still had to purposely twist Harry’s words on camera in subsequent articles. In the Sussexes case whilst the press is hostile doing Q&As etc on their social media like Harry did for Invictus anniversary may be good way to explain their work etc directly.

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