Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Today's Wall St. Journal Theme: Heroics & Online Personality Quizzes

The media always runs on themes. On any given day, the media will cover a couple of themes. If the big story is the White House intruder who got further into the White House than was first disclosed, you can expect (as we did get) stories about the Secret Service chief, another story about past problems with the Secret Service, additional background on the intruder (with quotes from family, friends and acquaintances), and more. 

It's the media's way of providing context. And broadcast, print and online media all do the same thing -- they look for trends behind the lead. The longer the main story remains significant, the harder the media has to dig to come up with some fresh angle that hasn't been covered before.

That's not what I want to talk about right now, though.

According to an old journalism adage, the definition of news is whatever interests the editor -- or the editor's spouse. Especially, sometimes, the editor's spouse.

And that can lead to mini-themes of stories and headlines that hit over the same day or time period. Sometimes they're unintentional, which makes them fun to catch. In this case, I think it's clear these mini-themes did not spring from an editor's directive.

For example, in today's Wall St. Journal, there were two stories about heroics.  But not the usual sort of heroics.

Here are two headlines from yesterday's paper:

One could make the case that both the headlines and the articles are designed to help Wall St. Journal readers feel like heroes -- even when it comes to two activities that are rarely seen as heroic: taking vacation photos or working out. If that's the case, what else could we expect to see: articles on meeting heroics? Ok, that was intended as a joke but the Journal also recently covered how to network better -- "Turn That Soul-Crushing Conference Into a Win; How to Get More Out of a Conference." So perhaps there is something to this min-trend. I will talk with our clients about pitching article ideas that position WSJ readers as winners and heroes. Meanwhile, another min-theme I've noticed involved two articles about online personality quizzes:

There are these kinds of serendipitous trends or themes all the time. It's just a matter of paying attention to them, and then thinking about if there's a way to leverage those for your clients or organization.