What Or Who Defines The Value Of News?

February 19, 2021
February 19, 2021 Kate Neale

What Or Who Defines The Value Of News?

What or who defines the value of news? We turn to the news in the hope of being informed about the world, and most importantly the world around us. We want to know what’s happening to people and things in places we care about. If you’re in the business of attracting eyeballs, you should know this: valuable news attracts valuable viewers.

Hands up if you find the average daily news broadcast from commercial broadcasters of little value. They’re of little value because they’re designed to appeal to the negativity bias of one sector of the community and the weary formula is repeated every day. The crucial 6 pm timeslot is a daily recap of political rivals, violent crime and disaster from suburbs in generally the same geographic, punctuated with an international headline and a token human interest story.

The saying goes “What good is the new news, if the new news, isn’t new?”

Here’s an overview of what I predict will be on the 6 pm broadcast news tonight: a Covid update of course; a soundbite about infrastructure and development from a politician in power and one that underminds him from his opponent; a stabbing/drive-by shooting/police car chase/gang-related crime or domestic violence incident (especially if sports person involved); a fire and/or car crash; a court case result; A random and novel news item from offshore; a PR piece ie. an editorial piece fed to the newsroom from an entity trying to raise publicity; medical marvel or malpractice; commentary on US politics; local sports update and the weather forecast.

Viewers know it to be a reliable source of pessimism given its long-established reliance on selling on fear. Newsrooms seem to have largely embraced that ideal, in an effort to gain ratings by appealing to our negativity bias. Has no one noticed they’re losing viewers? It’s not because online is easier – heck every household has a few televisions to turn on and receive their broadcast, they know where to find it. They just don’t serve what people want.

Of all the resources available to a broadcast network newsroom, it seems the one in the least supply is the ability to indulge in free thinking. The kind of free-thinking that would allow the producer to build a daily roundup of content that isn’t drawn predominantly from the emergency services, courthouse steps, PR or newswire.

As the Facebook saga begins to dominate the headlines, we find ourselves evaluating Facebook and other socials media outlets for their value as a news outlet and the value of the news they publish. At least, that’s what we should be measuring.

Why We Turn To Other Sources

The news wires that predominantly feed mainstream media are pretty much the same, hence the content is consistent when you tune into those media. Perhaps that’s why people turn to different media, one they have previously believed to offer more diverse and relevant information for them, tuned as it is algorithmically by tech monitoring to their activity.

If the Trump era taught us anything it’s that the social media machine is extremely vulnerable to manipulation and abuse not just by the actual host platform, but by anyone with an agenda to serve. Catfishing the lonely and lovelorn, peddling disinformation to serve political agendas or spoofing information about vaccines, social media platforms do not monitor content or have to meet the same editorial regulations that traditional media do. The content on social media platforms is increasingly being recognised as dubious, unreliable and sometimes flat out incredulous.

Let Journalists Do What They Do

The Facebook fiasco playing out now will no doubt awaken the awareness of the public, governments and marketing professionals, to the real value of reliable, responsible news reporting. We know the major news sources are compromised by politics and while the Internet offers free reign, free speech is one thing, propaganda quite another (See Joseph Goebbels).

I’ve not seen any metrics or data on how many people rely on Facebook for the news it displays. Do they actively seek out their news on that platform or do they just ‘trip over’ news content as a result of someone placing it there? People use other sources for news, but social media platforms are yet to be proven as THE go-to destination to sate our desire for traditional news content. That’s why the BOM and emergency services websites and all other sources have their own output – otherwise, they would all just have a Facebook page! Think about it.

Ironically the big platform boys don’t miss much hence they buy up any serious competitor as they emerge as attractive, but they may have missed a big opportunity in the news sector. The economic imperative to retrench journalists from reputable traditional news outlets as people received their news online, was unavoidable at the time, but the opportunity seems to have been missed.

The news is a sector long dominated by a few barons and the progressive times would indicate it’s time for the batons to change hands. The larger social platforms are the logical alternative IF they were to invest in providing the news that people want, but in their absence, smaller independent platforms and outlets are giving news back its value with a return to using journalists for what they do ie. They research and find out the details about things we need or want to know about.

Check out Ozy.com, inkl or The News Daily as alternative trusted sources of news. Then there’s the good news outlets such as Good News Network and The Squirrel Network. They exist because people are tired of being fed a constant diet of negativity – even if we do have a natural preset negativity bias.

People are also turning to their local news more to find relevance, as in the example in this story of a local journalist who had survived Covid in the US. Locals were frustrated at their inability to find information through official sources. He was inundated with enquiries from locals wanting to know where to turn and what to do about Covid related issues – and he was able to help.

In Australia, broadcast news services stepped up in this regard during the fire season 2019/20, because they get good pictures and people want the information.

What’s The Marketing Opportunity In The Facebook Saga For Australian Marketers?

News has value. You could take your marketing budget that you would otherwise spend on Facebook and put it toward an association or initiative with news centric services – if that’s of interest to your target.

You could shift your Facebook budget to funding news stories about something related to your industry, product, brand, target or market place.

You could shift your Facebook budget to sponsoring journalists to manage the community of followers that you grow for yourself. Sure the social platforms were a convenient way of cultivating and managing a following, but Harry’s Shave Club is a great example of how you can cultivate your own sizable following through your own influence and manage it independently of the platforms. Many of the tech features the platforms offer are readily available in plugins, apps or even cloned websites (if you do that sort of thing)!

What’s The Point?

The point is FB and the other social platforms are not the be-all and end-all of marketing tactics. They’re increasingly flooded and statistically becoming more like burying your ad in 10 pages of classifieds in a newspaper 20 years ago.

Have marketers become brainwashed to paid social media and search as the panacea to all their marketing trials or are they just creatively lazy and following the herd?

In a world where people look at their screens A LOT, have we forgotten how to interject, influence, entertain, inform and attract in the real world? Have marketers become entirely dependent on the digital medium to interact with their target audience? Do people not walk into shops, play sport, drive on roads, go to the beach or congregate anywhere else?

If anything Facebook and other platforms is hoping like heck marketers don’t realise this. They’re hoping we’ll be hoodwinked by the force of statistics behind their number of users etc., but I for one am not buying it – or advertising on Facebook.

If you’d like to know more about how to market effectively to people in the real world, contact Wanted Consulting – Reward Offered.

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