Casualties of War

July 21, 2011 4:39 pm

The demise of The News of the World highlights the challenges traditional media faces to scoop social media

So the News of the World is no more – a self-defeated casualty of the phone-hacking scandal, in which bombing and crime victims (rather than simply celebrities and other ‘willing’ public figures) allegedly had their phones illegally tapped by the British newspaper. Rupert Murdoch himself has cut it from the rest of his empire like a cancer, lest it further tarnish his other projects.

Despite the fact that this seems like little more than a publicity stunt (The Sun will probably now extend its publication run to seven days a week, meaning that the ‘News of the Screws’ will still exist in everything but name), the furore that has been rumbling for years has finally come to a head. Moreover, this whole scandal is in many ways a microcosm of the issues facing traditional media as a whole.

Britain’s politicians from both ends of the spectrum, who have spent years courting the Murdoch seal of approval, are now falling over themselves to condemn the practices that, with every passing day, are revealed to have been far from isolated.

Newspaper Phoneacking Scandal

Yet while the debate in the British parliament will focus on the tabloid’s indiscretions, it highlights a far greater issue with journalism, media consumption and an ever-increasing voyeuristic intent from the public. In what is something of a chicken-and-egg conundrum, the question is how have we reached such a crisis point in this information economy that grieving families are considered little more than walking headlines?

‘Grief porn’ content

Mia Freedman calls it ‘grief porn’ – the over-saturation of images, interviews, stories and heartbreaking quotes in the media after a tragedy. The raw horror on the faces of those affected by the Christchurch Earthquake, the desperation of the masses after the Japan Tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown or the hysteria of a sobbing mother who has just lost a child.

With social media leaving few remaining barriers to personal privacy, is the result a media industry that will stop at nothing to get even closer than the public can on their own?

Simon Jenkins, a columnist for The Guardian, wrote a brilliant opinion piece on the state of affairs in journalism today. His description of the effect social media has had on traditional journalism compares the industry to a post-apocalyptic society:

‘Reporters, writers, editors and printers are wandering round like victims of a bomb blast, enveloped in a cloud of digital dust. The profession of journalism staggers about, choking for air. Nobody knows quite what is happening.’

The content battleground

Jenkins’ bomb-blast analogy is eerily fitting – for the actions of journalists from the News of The World, and many other publications around the globe, have been in many ways acts of warfare.

The initial weak protestations of editors that journalists involved in phone tapping had ‘gone rogue’ smack of battle vernacular, and the way in which the media has been increasingly able to dehumanise the subjects of its scrutiny is reminiscent of foot soldiers steeling themselves against the questions of morality that arise from going into battle to the death. It is a ‘them or us’ mentality.

Phone tapping, once confined to the world of espionage, has somehow made its way into the toolbox of journalists. And yet just as having an insight into your enemy’s plans can prove decisive in battle, having an edge, a scoop, an inside story that the world of social media and citizen journalism does not have has become equally vital to the survival of traditional journalism as we know it.

Public culpability

Blaming traditional media alone for its war crimes, however, doesn’t do the complexity of the situation justice. People – from the famous like George Michael to the unknown – are happily taking to Facebook and Twitter to gloat over the News of the World’s demise and demand ‘action’ to stop this sort of thing happening again.

Interestingly, people did the same thing (albeit without the assistance of social media) after Princess Diana died. In both instances, the media was blamed. Yet now, as in 1997, the public has to acknowledge its complicity in relating voyeurism and immediacy with newsworthiness.

Last week, we blogged that broadsheets seemed to be flailing in the wake of social media, reporting news that wasn’t really news at all and substituting cut and pasted twitter feeds for sources. The question of which came first – our unquenchable thirst for intimate details or the taste that got us addicted – is not one with a simple answer.

Yet one thing is for sure – war doesn’t solve anything, and if the newspaper industry is to retain its place in society, a détente is required.


The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Image Source: The News of the World


  • Content Marketing News & Views Why Your Brand Needs a Podcast

    Why Your Brand Needs a Podcast

    Can you imagine speaking directly to a captive audience of potential customers? I’m not talking about the room of people you might find at a conference or seminar, but potentially tens of thousands of prospective buyers, listening to you from their home, on their way to work, during their lunch break or maybe even at the gym. This is the power of podcasting, and it’s one of the fastest growing and exciting marketing mediums available to businesses in 2017. It’s […]

    Read more →
  • Content Marketing Features The Power of Personalised Content

    The Power of Personalised Content

    With the incessant growth of digital communications, newspapers and other publishers have been forced to come up with new ways to tell stories. Companies that are not in the publishing business, but use content as a part of their marketing strategy can learn a lot from these emerging storytelling tactics. When it comes to personalised content, gamification is king. The more you can learn programmatically – primarily using data for better targeting – about your customer or audience member, the […]

    Read more →
  • Features Social Media The Latest Social Media Fails

    The Latest Social Media Fails

    There’s one big flaw that all brands have that no one likes to talk about: they’re run by fallible, emotional and sometimes careless human beings. Every once in a great while, these humans make mistakes—they slip up all too publicly on their brands’ social media properties. When this happens, most us watch the disaster unfold with bewilderment at the stark stupidity of it all. While these mistakes often create backlash for brands, and sometimes a bit of recovery work, they’re not necessarily […]

    Read more →
  • Features News & Views Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

    Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

    We’ve all seen those marketing campaigns that went, oh, so very wrong. They’re often around to clog up our social media feeds for a couple of days, garner some negative attention, and then they die off. But the real question for marketers is: how damaging was the campaign to the brand? We’re taking a look at whether or not all publicity is good publicity, and whether you can expect to recover from a serious popular culture blunder. Everyone’s Goal: Good […]

    Read more →
  • News & Views Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    A few days ago I posted an article called The Stupidity of Silence where I suggested that ceasing all contact when someone doesn’t give you what you want is a really dumb strategy. Here’s another one. We’re looking to sell our house at the moment. Part of the process is interviewing real estate agents. Theirs is an incredibly competitive business where all they’re offering is reputation and the perceived ability to persuade people to buy. The first agent who came […]

    Read more →
  • Content Marketing How to Make Your Content Actionable

    How to Make Your Content Actionable

    Content is not a magical formula that will make your target audience find your product and then breathlessly buy from you. The power of actionable content comes from your ability to attract the right audience, enabling them to interact with you and then to elevate that relationship to the next level i.e. for them to become a customer. So, how do you make your content actionable? Most importantly, you must give the reader, viewer or listener a sense of how they […]

    Read more →
  • News & Views The Stupidity of Silence

    The Stupidity of Silence

    It always astounds me when people in business don’t follow-up with a simple thank you email or even a note – when was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? – after we’ve had some type of interaction.

    Read more →
  • Email Marketing Features What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    It’s no secret that smartphones and tablets can no longer be ignored by email marketers—and there aren’t many more marketers out there doing so. It is a massive part of customer communication and revenue, but do you know just how massive? The following statistics come from all corners of the globe, and from many different industries. While they keep changing everyday, some are quite shocking. Here’s a brief description of everything you need to know about the power of email […]

    Read more →
  • Digital Marketing Features How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    Digital marketing has changed the media landscape forever and marketing budgets are being spread across channels – mainly digital – that previously didn’t exist. The problem is that optimisation is not as simple as it was before; if you’re not careful, your spend can get out of hand. By optimising each of your channels, you can reduce your media spend and achieve better results – all the while proving a positive return on investment (ROI) for every dollar you spend. […]

    Read more →
  • Features News & Views Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Donald Trump teaching you marketing lessons? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has made the race for the White House fascinating. And fascinating doesn’t happen by chance. Exceptional marketing combined with good old fashioned, in-your-face salesmanship are central to the success of his campaign – so far. So putting aside your opinion on his politics, let’s look at what can be learned from Trump’s ‘Making America Great Again’ campaign. Know Your Audience Contrary to the opinion […]

    Read more →