Content, Engagement & Sensationalism

Recently a commentator wrote a comment. It raised some interesting points about content on the internet and how to approach presenting the content you create. If anything the comment made me think and thus this post is both a reply and an explanation.

Screenshot Comment 22-07 by R.R.

Interesting comment, to reply I have split up the comment in two parts to address the points made.

“Everything said made a bunch of sense. But, what about this? what if you added a little content? I am not saying your content is not solid, however suppose you added a headline that makes people want more? I mean Regarding the Blog and its Lay-Out on Radjah’s 2 cents is a little vanilla.”

The content on the blog is intended to address the topics as direct as possible without being to detailed or jargon-head-ache inducing. If people want more they can read on. If the reader is not interested, the reader can do something else and that is it.

As much as I understand that the presentation of the content here is “a little vanilla” – call it bland if you have to – that presentation is on purpose. When someone is genuinely interested in what I write a suspense inducing or a sensational presentation might have an adverse effect. Genuine interest does not need a suspense inducing or a sensational title and presentation, just content worth your interest.

The latest book I have read was titled Event by Slavoj Zizek. The book was about the nature of “the true event” and an enlightening read about Zizek’s perspective on “the true event” and our era, the post 2010s. For everyone who has read Montaigne’s Essays, the title says it all. If you want to know more, read the book, turn the cover and discover what is there. When you do not like it, you stop reading.

Thus my approach, the content here is not about “read me!, read me!”. By judging books and other formats of media by their cover people miss out on potential content. Too bad for them, too bad for everyone. There is this proverb “Do not judge a book by their cover”. Its core message is sadly often overlooked.

“You should look at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create post headlines to grab people interested. You might try adding a video or a picture or two to get readers excited about what you’ve got to say. In my opinion, it might bring your posts a little livelier.”

Screenshot Yahoo 22-07 – by R.R. Screenshot Yahoo 22-07 by R.R.

I looked at Yahoo‘s home page and I looked away. After the jumbled mess of MSN I went for Google‘s clean home page and interface. Some people like the lively presentation of Yahoo and MSN. Some people prefer less distraction and less hype. Growing up with Western media in all forms, educational, news and advertising I came to detest the overload of information.

Besides, Yahoo and MSN generate revenues by showing what they show. Sometimes Google does the same thing nowadays. Thing is, this blog is a blog, not a profit oriented organisation called enterprise. This blog’s business model is that I share what I find interesting. In doing so I am not going to compete with these big enterprises as I do not want to.

Engagement, as addressed by “grab people interested” is important. Thing is, the content on the blog is to engage in a non-sensational, direct and honest way. I see little value in exaggerating for the sake of attention. When the reader is genuinely interested and reads my post, that is reward enough for me.

Content, Engagement & Sensationalism in Mainstream Media

In mainstream media, be  it educational, news or advertising communication serves more purposes than to just address a small audience. The audience varies between hundreds of thousands, millions and billions depending on reach and location.

Additionally to reach more people the costs of communication have to be covered. Next up the break-even analysis and return of investment follow and that sometimes means attracting advertisers and investors. There are many choices and decisions involved in mainstream media that affect many people and how the mainstream media are perceived.

The content has to match the audience and the engagement has to come across as acceptable in the relationship between the medium and the (member of) audience. A bit of sensation is sometimes acceptable and required too, however it remains a matter of ethics versus potential revenues.

Mainstream media versus blogs, yes blogs are becoming more influential. When you compare blogs and mainstream media though, the difference in size and operations is often enough to stop there. Blogs are like the sole proprietorships of the internet, usually non-profit. Comparing mainstream media enterprises with blogs is like comparing elephants with an ants.

The nature of the media enterprise, decision to go profit or non-profit and the value proposition for the chosen market segments (thus audience) determine the content, forms of engagement and measure of sensationalism. It is a fascinating topic for research and observation. The history of the media is filled with interesting cases.