News vs Content: Battle Of The Egos

‘News’ and ‘content’ are very different things – according to Emily Gosling, Writer and Editor at AIGA anyway – and this very sentiment was the crux of the debate at an Ogilvy-hosted discussion at Social Media Week London.

Liam Harrington, CEO & Co-Founder of UNILAD and Harry Wallop, freelance journalist previously at The Telegraph, also joined Gosling on the panel – which made for a controversial clash of two very different sides of the media.

As Gosling argued: “Lots of publications repurpose content, they don’t go find an original story – and nobody is talking about the hard work that goes on behind it. People don’t credit the source. It’s much harder to break a story now.” Wallop was much more direct in his view that “most of UNILAD content is shit,” referencing their ”poorly-written” repurposed coverage of Heather Penney to mark September 11th, in contrast to Politico’s meaty piece – taken from 40 hours of original interviews – on the memories of people who were aboard Air Force One on 9/11.  Wallop argued that high-quality newspapers and journalists should be going after the latter type of quality news as opposed to the “cat-video-entertainment content.”smwldn_news_vs_content

Listening to the rest of the line up at Social Media Week, or reading the current trends in marketing and advertising press, you could be forgiven for instinctively disagreeing with Gosling and Wallop.

Content is king in a world of short attention spans, a world where 44% of people say they need a holiday from social media, a world where cat videos do indeed get more viewers than ‘highbrow’ investigative journalism. Jai Kotecha, Digital, Social & Content Lead for Ogilvy PR, spoke about the 3 things a piece needs to perform well: resonation with today’s culture, being fit for purpose on the platform, and being entertaining.

But are those rules the same for both ‘news’ and ‘content’? Surely they are more apt to ‘content’ – with news erring on the side of true and thorough?

Harrington spoke about the emphasis on speed when it comes to news delivery – UNILAD has deals with several newswires, and when stories come up, their writers, producers and editors work hard to ensure their piece is the first one seen. The size of their following does seem to reflect a high level of success when it comes to sharing content and news that is relatable and entertaining. Their pieces achieve a greater degree of online fame than articles posted by more traditional media outlets.

But surely the measure of success for a piece of journalism shouldn’t be the speed at which it’s published. As Wallop suggested, surely it’s instead about who has the most compelling, original and well constructed take on a story.

It seems there really is a divide in opinion when it comes to what’s important for news and what’s crucial for content. But when it comes to thinking about the audience, do they even really care how we term the stuff they consume?

Maybe the debate shouldn’t be happening between the journalists and the content creators – maybe instead we must consider at what points we as humans prefer to laugh at a video of Ed Sheerchin than dive deep into the world of private prisons, and vice versa.

The question is not which is ‘better’, more intellectual or worthy. It seems right now it’s a battle of egos – who gets the most views; who put most work into their piece; who can get the best influencers on board. Instead we must focus on who can cut through the noise, at the right time, to the right people, and learn from them.

There’s a place for both content and news on our newsfeeds. Maybe by first accepting a separation of definitions, a refining of purpose behind each type of piece; and a working knowledge of the fact that consumers use social media for both news and content, we could then have a conversation about what’s really needed to truly resonate.

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