As I notice the amount of content I read that consists of blogs and opinion pieces (often shared via social media) is higher than ever, I find myself wondering what my former journalism teachers are thinking. None of us predicted that in a period of less than ten years we go from emphasizing that the best journalism is objective and unbiased to openly talking about how to take newsworthy events and "inject your ideas" into them. Today, however, that seems to be becoming the norm.
David Meerman Scott describes Newsjacking as "the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business." When you think about all the digital media sources we skim, Newsjacking is everywhere. People and businesses are constantly adding in their two cents, not only to contribute and help steer the conversation in their desired direction, but also to get a piece of the spotlight. Perhaps the most obvious and successful incident of Newsjacking this year is Oreo connecting itself to the Superbowl blackout. During the Superbowl blackout, Oreo was able to take advantage of the frustrating but harmless situation by promoting their brand on Twitter in a way that tied it to the situation.
While Newsjacking can be effective way to draw attention to a brand or organization, not all headlines are available to be shared. Last week we saw one of the most self destructive attempts of Newsjacking this year. When Epicurious tweeted about offering a bowl of breakfast energy in relations to the Boston bombing, quite rightly, they only ended up hurting themselves.
In this situation, the Epicurious failed to realize that consumers are not oblivious and are often well aware of the self-serving intentions behind Newsjacking. While consumers might be tolerant of and open minded about these self-serving intentions under events or incidents that are slightly frustrating, they will not tolerate them in the aftermath of a tragedy. There is a huge difference between Newsjacking with events that are well known or being debated and news events that are deeply emotional.
In the age of social and digital media, the laws of Newsjacking are determined by the consumers and those who break them by Newsjacking content that is "off limits" can expect to be judged harshly. Companies need to be quick to be effective, but, they also need to take the time to put thought into the news they are working with. When deciding when to tie themselves to a situation, businesses need to realize that not all news is good news and not all spotlights are acceptable to try to get a piece of.