In our '24/7-media-everywhere' society we have more information available to us than we could ever digest. From conventional media, like newspapers, magazines, and televised newscasts, to social media like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and more, we are inundated with opinions, updates, news, entertainment, and all kinds of data.
How you consume this media, decide what data to invest in, and how much time and attention to give it depends on many different variables. Of course, tastes and interests come into play, but so do other conditioning factors.
First of all, we’ve long been conditioned by celebrities and high profile figures, like politicians, executives, and sports personalities. But in the past few months many of them have changed the game. For example, there was a lot of buzz about the divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates. While people are curious about why they decided to do it now after 27 years of marriage, far more interest surrounded how they made the announcement.
The Gates were not the first people to make announcements on social media and they definitely won’t be the last. We’ve had celebrity breakups, cast reunions, film announcements, and even government policy announced on Twitter and other platforms.
So why are people now so fascinated, and even critical, about how this couple shared their news?
It comes down our expectations as media consumers. We have different standards for different people and businesses. Those standards are dictated by four variables: age, the brand, news cycle, and type of information being shared.
The demographic of both the media consumer and newsmaker (in this case, the Gates) is important.
Digital natives – Gen Z and Millennials – are used to and are more comfortable getting their information on their devices. The shorter the better.
Whereas, Gen X and Boomers, grew up with traditional media and like to hear or watch their news in a longer format.
So, when Boomer brands share news exclusively on social media only, the choice is unexpected. The assumption is Boomer brands would announce news in a traditional press conference. To read a post in 280 characters feels odd… and in some ways unsatisfying.
But what we’re really seeing is an interesting change. With the success of movie trailers and other announcements being made on Instagram or other social channels, influencers have learned that a one-time hit creates a big impact that is repeated in offline media, such as TV entertainment news magazines. In this instance, all demographics receive their news the way they like it.
There are certain personality brands that break the norm. For example, one Boomer brand chose Twitter as his platform for news dissemination for four years. As media consumers we were trained by his brand.
Similarly, all brands have a primary way of communicating. They show up consistently via a certain media platform. For example, there are certain influencers or media personalities who create new dance trends via TikTok. Their followers go to their channels to learn the latest dance craze. While this may be a far cry from the days of American Bandstand and Soul Train (references only half of those reading this may get), the fun is the same.
Similarly some personality brands write blogs or do podcasts, as we’ve seen with many celebrities. Yet, others use live videos on platforms like Instagram or Facebook… and still some others thrive in press conferences or sit-down interviews. Whatever the medium used, when it changes, we are surprised – sometimes even thrown off.
When there’s a slow news day, smaller stories get headlines. Likewise, in a big news day, such as a spicy scandal or a national event, smaller stories get little to no attention. B stories become C stories, and so on. So, depending on what’s going on in the world, we may or may not pay attention to what some popular figures say or even how they say it.
On slow news days different outlets pick up on the smaller stories and expand on them. For example, when Colton Underwood came out on a national morning show, various different outlets offered commentary on everything from his body language to criticism (as well as praise) on the timing of his announcement.
Days later Colton’s story wasn’t given any more attention. The cycle of that story had run its course. While other stories, such as Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah had a longer lifespan. A story’s cycle not only depends on the type of story but the public interest of the particular newsmaker.
The Type of Information Being Shared
As media consumers, we are hungry for up-to-date information, sensational news, and the latest trends. We are also hungry for drama. Nothing is sexier than the rich and famous suffering through trials and tribulations like the rest of us. We are drawn to the actions and words of celebrities, politicians, athletes, and other high profile figures. While you and I may share news and even our trials on our personal platforms, our circle is limited.
In addition to who is making the news – otherwise known as prominence-- there are some standards that are often identified in journalism class. These include, but are not limited to, timeliness, proximity, oddity, and consequence. If something is urgent, we pay attention. If it’s close to us, we want to know about it. If it’s unusual or sensational, we have got to see it. If something bad is going to happen, then we’re definitely curious. These five factors are items that grab our attention.
Additionally, as indicated above, it’s worth noting that the type of media used and length of media used to share information, entertainment, or news is another huge factor. Some of us prefer short quick videos while others prefer longer, detailed reports. Some like to listen to podcasts or live conversations on Clubhouse, while others like the stream of Twitter. One thing, however, is consistent across all these different mediums and that is the title or click bate that draws us into even investing in the story. Content creators and journalists purposefully are drawing you in.
By looking at these different elements – the age of the media consumer or newsmaker, the brand of the newsmaker, the current news cycle, and the type of information being shared – we can become more informed media consumers. We might be able to examine what we are drawn to and why; and ultimately better discern how we spend our time.