How the media failed at marketing and made us sick

The Internet did not kill Old Media ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

First, a Venn Diagram.

Venn-Diagram

Proximity is physical distance, Influence is the degree to which something directly affects you, and Control is your ability to do something about it.

At the centre, where the spheres intersect, are far-away events that have little effect on your life and that you have no power to control.

This intersection is the news.

News appears to break the rules of sticky marketing. Since the job of media is to sell eyeballs to advertisers, breaking these rules is a bad idea.

What exactly is it that the media sell?

Before we explore this question, here’s a quotation from Hoover Adams, of the Dunn Daily Record, reproduced in Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick:

I’ll bet that if the Daily Record reprinted the entire Dunn telephone directory tonight, half the people would sit down and check it to be sure their name was included.

I don’t need to explain why the New York Times doesn’t print the Manhattan phone directory, or why the Wall Street Journal doesn’t run stories on happenings around my dining room table.

But if the Wall Street Journal did do this, I’d read with keen and active interest.

Local is a hook. Hooks are sticky—our eyeballs get snagged and we can’t turn away.

The most powerful hook is your name. You can’t not read something that has your name in it.

If tomorrow’s New York Times had the headline “Spear Considers Bold Business Move,” I would buy ten copies.

Come to think of it, reprinting the phone directory is likely a good strategy, in an era when news media struggle merely to survive.

Spending your time focused on things far away, well outside the sphere of your life, that you have no power to control, is the path to mental illness.

At the very least, it’s a recipe for gloom, negativity, cynicism, and resignation.

A healthy person’s Venn diagram intersects at nearness, influence, and control—focused on the people and events that they can influence for the better.

In fact, sticky marketing can be condensed into a kindred formula: you must demonstrate how your product, service, or message solves a painful problem of your audience.

No wonder we loathe a media that is forever bringing us bad news from across the world of things we have no power to change.

Worse yet, the bad news from across the world is emotionally charged.

Emotion is a powerful hook.

In fact, it’s one of the six “hooks” of Made to Stick:

1 – Simple
2 – Unexpected
3 – Concrete
4 – Credible
5 – Emotional
6 – Story

This is the answer to our question What exactly do the media sell?

Powerful, emotional hooks. Outrage, scandal, indignation, horror, pathos, fear.

Lacking the prospect of proximity, nearness, and control, these hooks produce mental fatigue and malaise.

Our logical mind recoils. We ask “why exactly are we reading the news?” We come to the realization that the news, in fact, is best ignored.

Perhaps, then, the Internet did not kill Old Media, or at least not in the way we had thought. Perhaps it was all a marketing failure.

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