Reading the newspapers, I’m increasingly left with the feeling that someone in each of their editorial teams is treating the publication as a giant buzzword bingo card. The way I picture it, at the start of each month one of the editors sits his or her team down and issues a challenge – “how many times can you shoehorn the latest acronym or word du jour into an article, regardless of relevance?”
Recent favourites include mentioning Game of Thrones wherever possible, forcing in a reference to Leicester City’s Premier League win and that ubiquitous term, ‘millennial’ – preferably all three if you can. In an age of struggling print titles, falling ad revenue and an increasing reliance on click-bait to drive web page hits, it’s understandable that newspapers want their content to reach the top of the pile. However, reusing the same old lines feels more an attempt to generate hits and improve SEO than successfully capturing the zeitgeist.
Effective communication requires more than throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Trying to appeal to everyone every time – whether you’re a journalist or a business – leaves you spreading yourself thin and your audience frustrated. I find myself perplexed at references to Game of Thrones in articles on Right to Buy and despite being part of the so-called Generation Y I’m not sure why Apple deemed its ‘millennial-friendly texting tools’ to be a key takeaway from its latest conference.
Of course, we’re all guilty of jumping on the bandwagon at times – you can’t move for Brexit references, even in the recipe supplements, and practically every British brand has appealed to its heritage in the year of the Queen’s 90th birthday. But it’s all become so lazy as marketers and journalists pepper their content with sweeping generalisations. For one, I certainly don’t identify with the ‘millennial’ label, nor do I think I share many attributes with the other 14 million Brits it refers to.
Across newspapers, trade press and advertising campaigns the same tired references pop up over and over again – on-trend or universally understood mentions that are more irreverent than relevant.
It’s not to say that all content should be so direct there’s no room for a bit of fun, and being on-trend isn’t a sin. Even repeating yourself is important – after all, it’s only when you’ve said something so many times that you think people are sick of hearing about it that you might be getting through to your audience.
But when I’m faced with all the world’s media at my fingertips the pieces that will appeal to me most are those which speak to me directly, rather than those which throw in distractions to widen the net. Perhaps one day click-bait will be king but in the meantime, there are still those of us out there who appreciate nuance, and some of our biggest titles could do well to remember it.