What constitutes news?

Martin Waxman and I talk about what constitutes news and how easy it is to trick not just the Interwebz, but the news media as well.

Case in point: A young woman was practicing her twerking in her apartment when her roommate opened the door into her and she fell onto a coffee table full of lit candles. Her yoga pants caught on fire and the video ends with her screaming and jumping around, trying to put out the flames.

Jimmy Kimmel invited her on the show and it came out the video was a fake, the girl is a stunt actor, and yet…all the news media covered it as if it were a real thing.

As well, The Onion had a piece by Meredith Artley, the managing editor of CNN.com, about why Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance was their top story of the day.

It’s an interesting conundrum. We are attracted to the train wrecks, which create the eyeballs and the clicks, but we complain when the media doesn’t cover the more serious news of the day, such as what’s happening in Syria or Kenya.

So what makes the news? If you are in charge of a brand’s journalism, do you cover what’s important or what drives eyeballs? Do we have a right to complain about the viral videos and twerking if we are more interested in the gossip and train wrecks instead of the hard news?

We would love your thoughts.

Send us an email or an audio comment to [email protected], join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

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  1. Dominik

    Hi Gini & Joe,

    I listened to your show on the subway to work this morning (as so many other morning before). I really enjoy your show and have gained a lot of valuable insights and inspirations for my work in PR.

    You mentioned some interesting points on what’s news and what’s not, and talked about that serious news is and has been on the down for decades, and is now hard to come by. Consumers are driving the increase of non-serious news due to their consumption behaviour; you mentioned slide shows and resulting click numbers.

    I’d like to add two observations:
    1) in this discussion, I think that we need to also take into account the massive overall increase of content. This is obviously true for entertainment & related news, but also for serious news and analysis. As a result each click is worth less for entertainment news/non-serious news, so these media companies need to constantly work on getting people new content to click through. For “serious”, in-depth news this is different. If you read a long, well-researched NYT article, you’ll have maybe 2 clicks (to flip to the second & third page) and no slide shows: time on page becomes a more relevant metrics.
    2) The media environment is changing. If you want hard news, be it political, economic, scientific,…, then maybe CNN, FOX and other media are not where you should be looking, but rather Politico, Foreign Policy, Bloomberg, FT, Scientific American… People genuinely interested in real background stories, e.g. on Syria, have more than enough choices both on either side of the political center. So, it’s really about the target audience the media is catering to that matters.

    Looking forward to your next episodes,

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