Hype Is Not News But We Keep Acting Like It Is
This morning I read a headline from the Wall Street Journal that had promise, especially as it could impact online marketers. The title of the story read: Web Tool on Firefox to Deter Tracking.
Interesting, right? Here is what the Journal had to say about the tool.
Mozilla Corp. plans to add a do-not-track feature to its Firefox Web browser, which could let users avoid having their actions monitored online.
The announcement makes Firefox the first Web browser to heed the Federal Trade Commission’s call for the development of a do-not-track system. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Mozilla was exploring the development of such a system.
For Firefox’s tool to work, however, tracking companies would need to agree to not monitor users who enable the do-not-track feature. So far, no companies have publicly agreed to participate in the system, but Mozilla urged them to join in.
“Mozilla recognizes the chicken and egg problem,” the company’s newly appointed global privacy and public-policy leader, Alexander Fowler, wrote in a blog post. But, he wrote, Mozilla is asking that websites and advertisers join its efforts to “honor people’s privacy choices.”
Still interesting, right? Firefox has been dinged lately due to complaints on speed and the wider use of Google’s Chrome browser so you think, “Hey, these guys are looking to differentiate themselves from the market and get some of their mojo back.”
Well, as with many things Internet related these days there is no real news to report here. Why? Here’s the last sentence of the article (which helps you to skip over plenty of interesting stuff that apparently is not any threat to be a reality any time soon).
Mozilla said it isn’t clear if the new tool would be ready to be included in the coming Firefox 4.0 release, or a later version of the software.
Well, then why am I reading about it as if it is ‘news’? This is where the online space stubs its toe all the time and it’s the fault of the Internet industry as a whole, and online marketers, especially. This rush for content and news has created a whole new technique of reporting on what I will call ‘potential news’.
It’s kind of like announcing to people that you are buying a really cool car then saying “Well, I am buying it at some point in the future. At least I am pretty sure that I am. So I just wanted to tell you now so you would like me more.” Whether you buy it or not isn’t the story, it’s the potential for you to buy it. That’s not news, that’s dreaming.
This practice of pre-hype is just pathetic. If you are in the online marketing or PR space you really need to see this kind of approach to content as troubling.
Why? Because it’s just touching the line of being a lie. A lie you say? How can you say that? Well, what if the product never happened (which sounds just as possible from this story as its inclusion in any future version of Firefox)? What then?
In the eyes of the promoter, nothing really because the news cycle long ago buried the original ‘attention getter’ so who cares? No harm, no foul, right?
Actually no. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. This mad rush to ‘out-content’ the next guy is creating so much crap online that it’s getting harder and harder to tell truth from spin from reality etc. I know it’s always been that way but it seems as if this practice is ratcheting up in intensity. Look at the hype machine that took Groupon from neat site with considerable success to a $15 billion ‘unstoppable machine’ despite the many obvious weak spots in their armor. It’s ridiculous.
So I ask you, is it worth it to set up the potential to be the company or product or PR mouthpiece who cried “Promote!”? I don’t think so because it’s practices like this one that chip away at the credibility of the media more than ever and it is accelerated in the online space like never before.
So, back to our Mozilla example. Is it worth some eyeballs to have some people actually pay attention to the organization for a little while but then have those who remember this ‘announcement’ call for some follow through in the future when there may or may not be any?
I suppose we can be just as guilty here at Marketing Pilgrim in helping to spread some of this stuff (predictions of future performance on anything are a good example) but we just talk about what we see. What’s troubling is that as more of what we see is not anchored in any reality then what’s actually happening? A whole lot of nothing that will lead to people believing anything which sounds an awful lot like the end of the last century.
I thought maybe we had learned something. Looks like I was asking too much and bought the hype, huh?