So How Is It For You Media Chaps?

Time to rewrite the old rule: never believe your own publicity should surely become never believe your own Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / LinkedIn feed. We are in danger of running around in ever decreasing circles, screaming at the same people, recycling the same news, the same rumours, the same lies.

If this weren’t so serious it would be a fascinating social experiment – but the fact is, it is awful and no amount of social media posts of families playing, or singing, or making amusing models out of their pets can mask the fact that people are becoming very ill, and are dying.

In the middle of all this, how should advertisers behave? How are we all behaving?

The first thing we are all doing is becoming obsessed with the news. Overall TV viewing figures in the UK are up by around 32% year-on-year. That’s not Netflix. Not YouTube. Not Facebook video. TV.

Whilst we’re on TV, we seem to have stopped the war on the BBC. Possibly because when the nation comes together it comes together in front of the BBC. Hopefully we won’t immediately forget the good work the BBC is doing keeping the nation informed, on local services, local radio and so on as well as on the national feeds.

Newspapers off and online seem to be doing well but not as well as might be expected.

This would seem to be as a result of something rather interesting – advertisers not wanting their ads appearing within any story containing the word ‘Coronavirus’. The argument being that it can’t be a good thing to be associated with bad news. In online media this means that the programmatic algorithms are set to blacklist any sites or elements of sites where the banned word appears.

This is so absurd as to be almost comical.

First, surely even online evangelists would concede that leaving everything up to an algorithm with no human intervention, as certainly seems to be the case here is crazy.

Yes, it makes sense to blacklist a site spreading false facts and rumours, but presumably kosher news sites are blacklisted too?

Certainly that’s what Newsworks, the UK trade body responsible for marketing the newspapers and their associated websites is getting at in their campaign to back not block news, and to support journalism.

As Tracey de Groose, Executive Chair at Newsworks says:

“Against a backdrop of Brexit, climate change and the current coronavirus pandemic, we are living in unprecedented and anxious times and the news industry is playing a vital role in people’s lives by providing information and advice they can rely on. Amid a growing awareness of the pervasiveness of fake news and misinformation the nation’s appetite for trusted news is at an all-time high.”

Newsworks are calling on advertisers to back journalism, an admirable sentiment, although quite why advertisers should back any newspaper (like the Daily and Sunday Telegraph) refusing to publish their sales data through the official channels is not clear.

I don’t remember Newsworks being quite so vehement in advising advertisers how to behave on that occasion, although I think they’ve had a word or two to say about the efficacy of Facebook’s data .

To repeat Tracey: “Amid a growing awareness of the pervasiveness of fake news and misinformation…”

Aren’t Newswork members (well, some of them at least) just as guilty? Here’s the centre spread from last weekend’s ‘Mail on Sunday’ (and be assured I could have chosen any number of images here).

The point is surely that the context within which ads are seen does matter.

Advertisers can make up their own minds whether they wish to advertise within content that seeks to monster someone or some organisation without due cause (for the benefit of the many Cog Blog readers not in Europe, Michel Barnier is the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, and as such not our tabloid newspapers’ favourite person).

Fake news and misinformation, along with content created to scaremonger is not unknown territory for the gentlemen of the UK press (nor indeed for several other mainstream media channels I could mention).

Context matters – but context matters always, not just when our national newspapers and their trade body decide that it does.

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