The first was from the Fall 2010 Preview issue of American Journalism Review, titled “Traffic Problems.” The article summarizes how the ability to track the popularity of specific online articles affects a newsroom’s future focus. Key callouts:
High-minded headlines and stories about foreign wars, the federal deficit or environmental despoilage might have paid the bills in the age of Murrow and Cronkite, but they only go so far these days. Shark videos and “naked Lady Gaga” headlines get major play on “serious” news sites for an obvious and no longer terribly shocking reason: They draw traffic….
“Journalism always put a premium on speed and scoops, but up until recently we never had to make the decision that speed trumps vetting or verification,” observes my colleague Roxanne Roberts. “That dynamic is shifting because of the need for hits. It’s a very slippery slope from an ethical standpoint….”
While there are consequences for being slow, there aren’t many consequences for being wrong, Roberts says: “The feeling nowadays is, ‘we don’t make mistakes, we just make updates.'” By trying to grab traffic at all costs, “We’ve placed the premium not on being correct or thoughtful, but on being first. When you do that, everything is Balloon Boy….”
The second article, “Making Money in the Reputation Economy,” appeared in Forbes and was penned by Anthony Johndrow, a partner and managing director of The Reputation Institute. Jondrow believes that reputation management may be more important now than ever before. Key callouts:
Like the “innovation economy” of the 1990s or the “risk decade” of the 2000s, the 2010s promise to be one where reputation is activated as a driving force behind markets.
Corporate reputation has already become a decisive factor in the competitive landscape —companies that mobilize who they are and what they stand for to take advantage of this shift will dominate their space for years to come. Executives who understand and act on this opportunity will emerge as the leaders of the reputation economy.
Together, these articles suggest that speed and populist sensationalism may currently trump accurate and thoughtful media reporting…precisely at the same time that corporate reputations are more scrutinized and more important than ever before. This is certainly a troubling combo for crisis managers, akin to “…red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.”
How to address this dichotomy? One idea – companies must keep nurturing relationships and providing meaningful dialogue during good times. Up until recently, this was typically done through key third parties and influencers. Today, companies enjoy direct dialogue with the public. (Thank you, social media.) When bad things happen and media decides to run fast and loose with a story (in the name of almighty clicks), these relationships can come in handy. At best, the public will come to a company’s defense. If not, at least the organization has a pre-existing dialogue from which it can build additional context.
If you have other constructive ideas on this, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.