Something to chew on

Pies, tortilla, and grissini: Three TV news formats

Last night, a massive audience saw the finale of the The Great British Bake Off.  Pies, cakes, pasties, sponge, tarts, bread, biscuits, pithiviers, fondant fancies, and mille-feuille… these are how we roll.  And the growth of the audience was a triumph of yeasty viewers, the application of competitive heat, wonderful ingredients (Mel and Sue and the judges) and classic methods with a twist (two judges, but this time the older one being a woman, the lovely Mary).

We know that for viewers there is something attractively nostalgic about baking, but is there also something about the food itself that appeals?

At the same time word reaches us that certain types of news lasts longer than others.  When a news story is reported on Twitter most of it vanishes within a few hours.  The news stories with the shortest lives are financial news.  Some news providers are better able to sustain a news story. The analysis by the University of Arizona found that the news provider with the longest lasting news on Twitter was… drum-roll… the BBC.

I put it to you that what goes for baking also goes for news: the shape affects the way it is consumed.

News can be one-dimensional, or two dimensional, or three-dimensional


Financial news seems to operate on a single dimension – have exchange rates, profits, share prices, inflation and all the rest gone UP, or gone DOWN.   Audiences often like the simplicity of this. There’s much more to say, but financial news providers aren’t the ones to tell us.   In baking terms it’s a bread stick: a line, fragile and unsubstantial.  It doesn’t last.

Two dimensional

Do you want the facts, quickly?  In news you can provide breaking or dynamic news where the goal is to deliver quickly.  Viewers apply a premium to this speed.  But it can’t provide the context or the meaning of the story.  It’s knowing news (just the facts…), not thinking or understanding news .  And fair enough, that’s often as much as viewers want (especially in the morning).  Timely, tabloid, ticker, twitter-friendly… it’s all the Ts, and In baking terms it’s a tortilla.  A flat, two-dimensional plane that provides wide coverage, but at a price of being shallow.  A flat-bread or popadom would do.

I wouldn’t normally single out CNN (which is certainly not tabloid), except that for decades it traded on speed (be the first to know) rather than depth.

Three dimensional

But you can also cover news with depth.. with analysis that provides different angles and substance.  That’s a 3-dimensional approach which sustains the audience members prepared to chew something.

In baking terms, a pork-pie comes to mind.  Or a pasty.

Why do BBC stories on Twitter last longer?  Because they are the third type – they take a little longer to bake, eat and digest.  If global word of mouth is like an intestine, processing news by a process of enzymes, acids and bacteria, propelled along by a peristaltic wave, then the BBC’s process is more slow to pass through.

Anyway, let’s get back to pork pies…  they fill you up.  They are not for everyone, and neither is analytical news, but still. 



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