This morning NPR aired a piece by Jesse Baker titled, “Gawker Wants To Offer More Than Snark, Gossip,” on Nick Denton and Gawker Media. It was sparked by Denton’s redesign plans that will include more in-depth and analytical pieces to draw in upscale readers and advertisers.
Denton said, “I would like to show the full range of content, from scurrilous and sensationalist through to beautiful and uplifting. Because People can’t live on snark and viscous gossip alone.” This is an interesting development for a media brand that’s built its name by breaking news quickly (news that is often characterised as gossip).
Gawker’s success is indicative of today’s news culture. People gravitate toward sparks of news (irresistible headlines), and these sparks tend to be more of the sensational and less of the heartwarming.
The media industry has become somewhat of a Wild West since blogs have ignited a culture of round-the-clock news with a priority on bragging rights for breaking it first. In turn, consumers read hundreds of headlines each day through Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, you name it. This has fuelled a competition for eyeballs – we want more Twitter followers, more likes on Facebook, more followers for our blogs, etc.
But just because you have my attention does not mean that you will retain it. These sparks of controversy draw people in, but what makes them stay (and come back) is a point of view grounded in thoughtfulness – and of course relevance.
For PR and social media professionals, this is an important difference. The hunger for content has been a boon for many corporate thought leaders who are able to draw large audiences for their blogs, videos, infographics, etc. The trick is creating content that is compelling enough to attract visitors and thoughtful enough to engage them.
Although I am loath to advocate sensational journalism, it certainly has the corner on the interest (and eyeballs) market. We only have to look as far as Snooki and Tiger Woods to fully appreciate this principle. It will be interesting to see where this all goes. One thing is for certain – until we have better tools for filtering news, the battle for eyeballs will wage on – and controversy almost always wins.
Gawker is the high-brow gossip sheet covering media, entertainment, politics and technology.
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