We blame a helluva a lot on the media. We callously point the finger of blame to them for feeding us with information that lacks quality and integrity.
And then they point the finger right back at us because from their perspective, they’re sharing news – content – that generates an audience. That gets people engaged. That inspires conversation. Sure they could dive deep into more niche issues – but why would they when Miley Cyrus generates a gajillion page-views, brings in massive advertisers, and generates huge cash-flow?
Meredith Artley, the Managing Editor of CNN.com “wrote” an extremely blunt, somewhat condescending, but completely honest article about our media consumption – and why they led with Miley Cyrus’ VMA twerking antics.
“…I want our readers to know this: All you are to us, and all you will ever be to us, are eyeballs. The more eyeballs on our content, the more cash we can ask for. Period. And if we’re able to get more eyeballs, that means I’ve done my job, which gets me congratulations from my bosses, which encourages me to put up even more stupid bullshit on the homepage.
I don’t hesitate to call it stupid bullshit because we all know it’s stupid bullshit. We know it and you know it. We also know that you are probably dumb enough, or bored enough, or both, to click on the stupid bullshit anyway, and that you will continue to do so as long as we keep putting it in front of your big, idiot faces. You want to know how many more page views the Miley Cyrus thing got than our article on the wildfires ravaging Yosemite? Like 6 gazillion more.”
Now, while the article was not actually written by Artley, this fake op-ed courtesy of The Onion highlights the harsh reality of the current state of how media is presented and how we consume it. And much as I’d love to argue with some of it – all of it – I’m at a loss. Because, it’s right.
CNN could lead with a story on Syria or the wildfires out West, but they wouldn’t generate even a fraction of the traffic. Hannah Montana getting her twerk on? A frickin’ magnet for eyeballs and click-throughs. At least Meredith is honest and isn’t sugar-coating – and I respect the heck out of that.
Your brand – every brand – will be faced with multiple “pivot points” in which you’ll have to decide to move toward what you can easily sell versus what you really, truly believe in. Questioning your own integrity and values is par for the course when you find yourself as the key decision maker for a brand.
We’ve faced this ourselves internally. We’ve consciously made the decision not to grow fast – but to grow well. We realize – I realize, that our business can grow faster by saying “yes” to everything and becoming a pure production shop. But I also know that will result in completely sacrificing the integrity of our approach – our process – and who we’ve identified as our ideal client.
Left and right I’ve got savvy marketers – consultants – even friends telling me that I should scale, scale, scale. I should turn everything into templates and products that will sell themselves. But I and we would rather do what we’re passionate and excited about – instead of, metaphorically speaking, throwing Miley Cyrus on the homepage to generate millions of hits.
Back to CNN. The only way to not continue in the downward spiral to being mindless clickers of worthless crap? Don’t be mindless clickers of worthless crap. Up your game. Focus on what matters. Be intelligent consumers of content. It’s a tall order but it’s the only way we’ll ever – ever – see any honest-to-God dramatic shift in media presentation and consumption. We have to up our game and our intelligence quotient – or deal with Miley as front page news.
The same goes for the work you’re doing. Be it in building up advocacy for your nonprofit, selling an app, or growing your life-coaching business. Sure it’s easier to move toward what you can put into a shiny package and market like crazy. But if you step back and focus on the why – and push your energy into doing what you believe in – what matters – it’ll likely be a longer road, but it will certainly be a much more fulfilling one.
And it’ll ultimately lead to a much smarter, more engaged audience. One that understands – and believes in the value of what you sell.
Oh, who am I kidding, it’s a twerking world and we’re just living in it.