Someone asked me once why newspapers, TV news and news websites focus on the bad stuff. After all, horrible things seem to get all the attention while good stuff gets page 3. Well, I understand the question, and I’m going to lay it out very simply. It’s because of you.
You read the papers and websites and watch television. The publishers and news directors can tell based on various data what people are paying attention to. This is especially true for web properties. We can track what you read, and how long you spend on that page, among other metrics. We don’t necessarily know it’s you, but we know what’s attracting the attention.
I actually run quite a bit of community news. However, the best day we’ve had traffic-wise in a while came as a result of a column titled “Hating Albany”. It’s not the winners of a bridge building contest, or Darton having a diver win a national championship. Nope, it’s something with a title that’s all about hating something.
What’s that? You don’t find that other stuff interesting?
You’re not alone on that unfortunately. The news industry learned that lesson long, long ago. There’s a maxim in the news industry that says, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s as true today as when it was first coined. Some believe that it means the media loves violence, but it doesn’t. We simply provide the people with what they want.
I can’t speak for my colleagues at the other media outlets, but the negative takes a toll on me. It’s tiring. I love running the happier stuff. I really and truly do. Unfortunately, you guys don’t want to read it. I get a handful of hits on that stuff, but if I blast the city commission? A whole lot more.
Now, you may be the exception. However, exceptions don’t pay the bills. We have to provide what people will actually read. If we don’t, then we can’t really expect to stay in business, now can we?
Folks, most media outlets cover a lot of good news. However, you don’t notice it because it’s not what gets shares on Facebook or sent halfway around the world by email. It’s not what gets read, so it’s not what gets the attention.
Let’s face it, “if it bleeds, it leads” applies not just to my industry, but also to what people want to read.