HLN, Social Media, and the “If It Trends, It Leads” Problem

Via: Tuned In

First it was CNN Headline News, a.k.a. the network you watched on mute while doing the elliptical in the hotel gym. Then it rebranded as HLN, a.k.a. the network you watched to see Nancy Grace get mad at this sick, sad world. Now it’s keeping its name, but becoming the network you program by updating your Twitter and Instagram feed. In its latest effort to boost its ratings, relevance, and youth-audience demographics, HLN announced yesterday that it would rebrand itself as “the first TV home for the social media generation.” Which means? According to the announcement: Taking a cue from today’s connected and wildly social generation, HLN will curate the news from across all platforms. Headlines will be ripped from the most “plugged-in” sites and blogs, and HLN will make it its mission to share the trending news, viral events and stories that have viewers most obsessed, plus discover emerging social stars. Leaving aside the glossary of social-guru buzzwords–curate! viral! trending!–there are some potentially good principles here: getting your audience involved, inviting viewers to contribute, listening to what people care about. In a lengthy interview with Buzzfeed’s Peter Lauria, new HLN head Albie Hecht said he was toying with the network tagline, “We’re not the news, you are.” Which, OK, is probably a mantra journalists could stand to repeat to themselves now and again. But if you spend even a little time in the news business, you know that this kind of populism is never so popular among media executives as when it can be used to provide a noble reason to cater to whatever people are fixated on and make a ton of money. There’s already a fixation–not only online and not only at HLN–on chasing “trending, viral” stories–seeing what’s burning up the social-media charts and slapping up quick coverage to grab precious clicks and eyeballs in the minutes before the audience catches a new wave. You see it in news websites and TV networks like HLN’s corporate sister CNN, which is why for one morning last month it covered

Read full story at: Tuned In

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