CNN launched in 1980 as the first live 24-hour news broadcast and spent their first decade on air redefining expectations of breaking news coverage.
They were first with ongoing coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, then the Baby Jessica rescue, and in 1991, the event that catapulted the small cable network past the big three broadcasters as the go-to news source… the Gulf War in Iraq.
CNN invented the 24-hour news cycle and made it the standard for others to follow.
It was no longer enough for a network to cut into programming with a big story. You needed your live news anchor to stop in the middle of the story he was reporting, put a finger to his earpiece and tell you what was happening, as it happened.
Back then, “We have reporters on their way to the scene and we’ll update this story as details come in…” was enough to keep you glued to a big event. You can’t ask for it to get any faster than that, right?
Cut to last week when a young woman attending a protest in Iran was gunned down in the street. In an instant, almost live as it happened, we were seeing graphic video of the event… and receiving real-time details from the scene as it played out via Twitter.
Suddenly CNN, restricted by the Iranian government on how they could report the story, were forced to cite “Twitter sources” for updates and scramble to verify facts. Caught somewhere between “with it” media outlet and grown-up news organization.
The result was as awkward your parents playing DJ at your college graduation party.
On Thursday, TMZ broke the story of Michael Jackson’s death a full hour before it could be confirmed by any more “legitimate” news sources. Choosing to decipher the information for ourselves, we collectively muted our TVs and logged in to Twitter.
In that exact moment, 29 years after CNN’s first broadcast, the expectations for breaking news were redefined once again.
We discovered, as did frantic media moguls, that we no longer have to wait for some talking head to describe what’s happening. Our bullshit meters, it turns out, are keen enough to filter out nonsense and find the truth just fine.
Sure there will always be a few rubes who fall for the obvious hoax. But take, for example, the rumor on Friday that Jeff Goldblum had also died after falling in New Zealand.
The report was quickly dispelled by friends of the actor like Kevin Spacey via Twitter. And the hoax was squashed before most people even heard of it.
This is a new level of power for the information age. People will continue to expect real-time access and interaction with those they choose to “follow.”
The 24-hour news cycle is now the 24-second news cycle. And diminishing right along with it is our tolerance for formality… while growing is our colossal desire for immediate gratification.
This new shift in expectations should be a warning to marketers whose success hinges on a strong relationship with their customer list. (That’s you, everyone!)
For example, soon a simple email address or voice mail phone number will no longer be sufficient enough “support” for your buyers. If they can get live news feed of major events as they happen, waiting a week for a “staff member” to respond to their email will feel like an eternity.
On the flip side, the savviest marketers have already begun incorporating real-time media into their pre-launch promotions… assembling Twitter teams and manning their own accounts to squash rumors, sway perception and build hype.
The people demand access.
They also demand to be heard. And the message they are sending is is loud and clear: “Lose the tie, drop the double-speak and give it to us straight.”
The challenge for marketers hoping to establish legitimacy for themselves and their products is no longer to keep it real… but to make it real.
It’s time to get hip or get left behind.
That’s the story for now. Stay tuned to The Copywriter’s Edge for continuous live updates on how these events will effect your business.