Your good news is boring

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: Content Marketing: The media is full of bad news because we are drawn to conflict and carnage, but not because our instincts move us to watch for threats (as some suggest). I believe that it’s not the negativity that draws us, but our irrepressible hope for a happy ending. Understanding this will make your content more interesting.

If you want to share positive, upbeat content, the chances are that it will flop (almost as badly as my recent plunge off the rocks at Piroa Falls, Maungaturoto).

Like rubberneckers drawn to a macabre car wreck, we can’t help but ‘click’ on stories about controversial, terrible and depressing events. Researchers Marc Trussler and Stuart Soroka, from McGill University in Canada recently completed an experiment which showed that people choose negative stories dealing- lapping up corruption and failure wherever we can find it.

Psychologists call it a negativity bias, claiming that it is our evolutionary instincts that draw us to negative news as a means of threat identification. I don’t buy it. Trussler and Soroka suggested that we think the world is better than it actually is, and we’re drawn to the negative because it is an aberration that is outside the norm. This theory may have some merit, but I don’t think it’s the whole story.

I believe people are drawn to bad news because it outrages our sense that the world is a good place, and we’re looking to make sure that the natural order has been re-established; justice has been done and wrongs have been set right – I believe we are drawn to bad news not by the negativity but by our desire for a happy ending.

Stories – novels, movies, myths – get their magnificent power not from pain, struggle, carnage and evil, but because they usually end in triumph and justice and leave us feeling good and satisfied because our sense of ‘rightness’ has been re-asserted. We want to know that Justice has been done. That the hero has won the day. That the underdog has beaten the odds.

I hated the ending to Game of Thrones. It violated my sense of a good ending, and I’m not the only one that felt slighted, cheated and aggrieved by the way it finished.

If you want to create more interesting content, start with the bad news – a problem and a struggle – and end with triumph so that others facing similar problems and challenges can learn and take hope.

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