Stephen Fry: editorial values vs trending topics

The curious point raised in my mind over the coverage of Stephen Fry’s decision to leave Twitter was concerning the level of coverage it received.

In old media decisions are made over whether a story is newsworthy or not – or they should be anyway. This is an intellectual decision based on the editorial values of the media outlet.

In new media (e.g social) it is very easy to see appealing trends, and along with trends come traffic. Therefore media outlets want a piece of the traffic and can decide to divert eyeballs to their own media space by running a trending story, such as Frygate.

This is what happened yesterday. The ‘Stephen Fry exit’ saga started to trend and other media outlets wanted to take this traffic. The story really was a none story, e.g man decides not to use website, then changes his mind shock.

Of course this sort of populism has been happening for a long time in old media too. It is just more transparent now that, through Tweetdeck, users get a live feed for the most talked about stories of the day. It goes back to the old argument of whether media has a mission to deliver news or provide eye balls to advertisers.

So, the Stephen Fry story is not a story, but perhaps an indication of how social media is changing editorial decisions.

From a PR point of view – I think my clients can learn a thing or to from this episode. Beg, steel and borrow your audience* from where ever you can (without doing a Habitat!!), but do it in a plausible, subtle and tasteful way. Do it well and your online profile will be boosted. Do it badly and you are toast (so hire professionals to advise).

For example, by writing this post I too am joining in on the feeding frenzy and getting a share of the Stephen Fry traffic. The only difference is that I am not a news channel set up to provide our nation with news.

Some might say, it’s not appropriate for brands to do divert traffic in this way, especially in the corporate or business to business marketplace. Well, they’d be wrong. Yes Frygate is not the right topic to use but corporate brands can borrow traffic from other places. Simply by identifying industry trends and then tapping into the online communities in which they operate or want to target. Yes the traffic will be lower, but much more targeted and a better match. For example a technology client should tap into the hot topics on Techcrunch and then into the billions of technology blogs that are in the blogosphere.

*sorry Fernando, I’ve stolen your concept

(Excuse any typos. I wrote this on my Blackberry. It was only meant to be a short post but I got carried away)

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