Repurposing press releases is a great way to get cheap and easy content. That’s been true since the dawn of the PR industry and across almost all industries. Corporate announcements are often treated with kid gloves and given massive amounts of media attention. Lately a few entertainment industry companies in particular have benefited from this. Consider the following “news” from just this year about one company or another unlocking some sort of achievement:
- Avengers: Infinity War hits $1 billion in box-office
- Deadpool 2 breaks Fandango records for R-rated film
- Fandango sold 30% of Black Panther’s opening weekend tickets
- Venom trailer surpasses 24-hour viewing record previously held by Wonder Woman
- Fandango sold 36% of Avengers: Infinity War’s opening night tickets
- Solo: A Star Wars Story selling twice the advance tickets on Fandango Black Panther did
OK. Neat. Cool. Got it.
Don’t really care all that much.
These announcements are shared by the company because they are in the financial best interest of that company. The more Fandango can position itself as *the* place to buy advance tickets (which you have to do if you want to see these hot movies opening weekend), the more that becomes a self-reinforcing cycle. The company gets press because it’s popular and widely used, then becomes more popular and widely-used because of that press.
Again, this is true for any company issuing a press release touting how it’s achieved some milestone or another. That’s the *point* of a press release or corporate blog post, to generate coverage. So good on the company and its press people for doing their jobs and working the system.
It would be nice, though, to see the media take a slightly more cynical and jaded perspective on this. I’ve long knocked the tech press for uncritically publishing every new feature announcement by the company of the moment, often failing to put news in any sort of historical context. Similar, failed efforts from that company or others are overlooked and ignored. The viability of the product isn’t questioned at all.
In the tech sector, this kind of willful ignorance and historical blindness was on stark display recently. Just weeks after the hand-wringing over data collection by Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcements at the F8 developer conference were covered with nary a word about the privacy implications of a dating app being introduced on the network or any other news. Similar examples can be found in the entertainment industry.
Unfortunately this is the media world we live in. Staff cuts, harried editors, overbooked freelancers and other players in the system have created a situation where there are few people around to pass on any sort of institutional knowledge or history. Those who remain are pressured to not push too hard on things because it might upset a company when access = content and content = survival.
I understand what’s happening and so take news like the breaking of box-office records with a grain of salt. As I said on Twitter, though, these are private companies making a profit and without skin of my own in the game I’m not required to care. I don’t feel the success of a movie has in any way validated my personal tastes and preferences, nor do I feel the popularity of anything impacts my own attitude toward it. And it’s not as if Disney promised to donate 5% of all profits above $1 billion to VA hospitals.
Media: It’s not necessary to lavish praise on everything in order to keep your PR source at a company happy with you. In fact, it’s kind of your job to honk them off a bit by not simply regurgitating their releases. You don’t need to hate on everything, but offer up some informed commentary alongside the next announcement.
Readers: It’s OK if the press doesn’t always love the things you love. Embrace being challenged and having to justify your preferences, even if it’s just to yourself. The alternative is cognitive stagnation, which isn’t healthy. Remember that the media – tech, entertainment, political etc – is there to act as a defense against those who would seek to influence you for their own purposes.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.