The return of Succession (and Logan Roy) has coincided with Fox News (and Rupert Murdoch) going on trial for defamation (in effect conspiring to give out false information about the result of the 2020 US Election). These two media events combined makes it feel like there is a lot of attention being currently paid to ‘older’, traditional news providers.
There have been a lot of articles and reports indicating that traditional news gatherers are losing relevance, and that audiences, particularly younger audiences are gravitating to social media for news and information. Given that, what is it that fascinates people about Waystar and Fox – is it just the pantomime villain nature of the people involved, or do these news organisations still matter
Given Hook regularly researches audiences and their response to news and news organisations, we thought we would give some thoughts about the news market, with particular reference to the UK. Until recently there were broadly two types of news authority. James Meek in a recent LRB article called them official news, and sceptical news.
Official news consists of sober reportage about the biggest stories from big known brands like the BBC and traditional broadsheet papers. It helps create a sense of what the news agenda was on any given day – official news providers like the BBC are still go-tos at times of national solemnity like the Queen’s funeral.
Sceptical news on the other hand is emotional. It combines glitzy packaging, big personality and edgy opinion together to make people question the world around and generate a visceral response amongst its consumers. This type of news is Murdoch’ stock and trade from Sky News to The Sun – but it is still news in a traditional package of paper or celluloid.
However, the proliferation of tech has added a new type of news to the mix – the individual, message strand. Message news is different to news that came before – first it allows individuals on the front line of a news story to define the narrative (this has been particularly noticeable in warzones – in the Ukraine war news comes straight out of military units from both sides onto TikTok, Facebook, Telegram and YouTube). Secondly, it gives a different strand of news to consumers based on the ragtag of people they follow on social rather than on prior trust in a news brand. This individual focus makes for a different type of news. It is deeply reflective of the personality of the person making the news (as opposed to having style guidelines). It also borrows from other forms of entertainment: putting cameras on drones to give computer game panoramics of battlezones; putting music, text and LOLs over the action; using songs as a throughline to certain types of content – the song ‘Valhalla Calling’ from Assassin’s Creed is used in a lot of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers video to indicate the almost mythic battle they are fighting.
given the new news landscape is about personality, you could hardly do better than Rupert Murdoch (the creators of Succession certainly thought so)
So given the above, what role do big news brands have and nonagenarian players like Rupert Murdoch.
(i) First, official news, and sceptical news haven’t gone away – and for older audiences, who have continue to have a disproportionate impact on elections (and by association policy) they remain very important. So Rupert Murdoch’s news brands still clearly matter.
(ii) Secondly these classic news sources don’t sit in isolation from social media and have names and brands that live on platforms like TikTok and Facebook. They often have considerable followings. Beyond that, individuals making the news on social are indelibly influenced by the news that came before – often their thoughts and prejudices are consciously and subconsciously framed by traditional media brands. Sceptical news brands are particular good at taking a pithy attack line about a subject which young content creators take on board and use as an ideological framework.
(iii) Finally, given the new news landscape is about personality, you could hardly do better than Rupert Murdoch (the creators of Succession certainly thought so). The internecine struggles played out in front of a select committee complete with a custard pie; Rupert ending his marriage to Jerry Hall with an email saying he still had work to do; the commitment of his son to destroying Fox News. All this combined with the big personalities of Fox and their deeply personal animus to a variety of issues of the day (which they feel so strongly about they are going to court for).
Ultimately what this shows is that the news market is a febrile place! More traditional news providers still have an enormous importance – both for framing the news, and even making the news BUT there is more information than ever communicated in more ways to a public with changing appetites.
Hook understands this and is continually working with many of the biggest news owners in the UK and globally to understand their audiences.
If you want to talk with us about any of the themes in this post or our experience please drop us a line.