Some news organizations have been resorting to using gimmicks to get the attention of their audience – but at what point does the importance and relevance of the news start to affect readership?
Pew Research Center reported in 2013 polling results that 65 percent of those polled thought that news organizations focus on unimportant stories, while only 28 percent felt the opposite: that news organizations focus on important stories.
When considering what news is worthy of being conveyed to the public, there are a few various aspects to consider: timeliness, proximity, prominence, impact, rarity, human interest and (likely the source of these poll results) the debatable new factor, sensationalism.
While novelty stories are always helpful in getting attention, it seems that many media outlets fail to focus on the important topics, instead hoping to maintain interest by providing the little fluff stories, the lighter bits, in order to combat the various other media that compete for our readers’ interest.
How does a news organization talk about the shutdown, potential bombing of Syria or other serious problems when their audiences only want to pay attention to cats or celebrities? They try to throw bits and pieces of that news into the mix, and unfortunately those pieces get all of the attention.
What kind of other media competes for the audience’s attention? A recent viral video by “band” Ylvis titled “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” exemplifies the sort of way that trends and lighthearted gimmicks seem to quickly gain public attention. On Monday, the YouTube video had well over 121 million views. Less widely known is the fact that the band is really a pair of Norwegian brothers who intended to use the goofy video to promote their talk show.
Though news organizations might be failing in their ability to choose what is really worth their readers’ time, it seems that there must be some sort of issue with other media outlets that’s leading to this public opinion, and it may even be an issue that falls on the public.
Those lighter bits are fun, but if someone wants “important” news, then all they have to do is find the right news organization. Maybe those 65 percent aren’t taking in the right information.