I show you how the media industry actually works, so you can stop yourself from being sucked into their shenanigans.
80%?!?! That got your attention, right? All eyes on me.
(Look at me, look at me, look at me, Kimmy.)
This is exactly how the media industry works. Attention is the most valuable commodity there is. And there are all sorts of tricks out there to suck you in.
But I’m going to break it down, so you know exactly how it works, and how you can protect yourself from it.
But hang on… So that just a joke then – about house prices falling 80%?
Nah. That could totally happen. All it would take is for the Earth’s magnetic poles to reverse (it’s happened before, it will happen again!), unleashing a cataclysm of earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanoes.
Then, just as what’s left of humanity is picking up the pieces, bam, deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
In that scenario, I predict Australian house prices would fall 80%, perhaps even 85%.
Someone put me on the telly.
Ok, how are you feeling right now? Probably a little annoyed right? You read the title, wanted to find out more, and then realised that Jon was on another of his benders.
(Why wife calls it “Margarita Madness”).
I’ve taken time out of your busy day, and wasted it with some inane ramblings.
Just like 60 minutes did.
Last Sunday, Chanel 9's 60 Minutes program, did a terrifying piece on Australia’s looming house price crash. In it, they suggested house prices were about to fall a massive 40%, and they made it sound like that is what a lot of smart and important people were expecting.
Only they weren’t. The 40% figure came from Dr Martin North – a bonafide data nerd. He’s actually pretty good – I’ve used some of his statistics in this blog before.
The thing was, that wasn’t what North was actually saying was going to happen. What he actually said is that there was an outside chance that house prices could fall that much, If (and it’s a big IF) there was some kind of re-run of the global financial crisis.
Thing is though, 60 Minutes chose to edit all that out. You had to actually go to his blog (and how many people did that?) to get the complete picture:
… It is not my central scenario. My best call would be in the region of 15-20% from top, over 2-3 years, but with some risk of a worse outcome. Nine chose not to cover these alternatives, though I went through each in the recording…
So yeah, if there was another GFC, it’s conceivable house prices could fall 40% (for a time). And if the magnetic poles reverse, it’s conceivable house prices could fall 80%.
So what’s going on here?
Partly this is about that old saying that “good news never made a paper sell,” but it’s more than that.
As some one who works at the coal face of marketing, there’s some tried and tested marketing strategies at work here, and 60 Minutes gave us a text-book case in execution.
The term you need to know is ‘disturbance marketing’.
This is the idea that before you can sell someone anything, you need to get their attention.
Trouble is, getting someone’s attention is hard. People just tend to put their heads down and go about their lives, generally trying to ignore the gazillion sales pitches they get on any given day.
And so, as a marketer, one of your key challenges is to jolt them out of this slumber. You need to find a way to break up their routine so they actually start paying attention. You need to disturb them.
And so the prospect of a 40% fall in house prices, or that fact that “Australia’s debt bomb is about to explode”, would be very ‘disturbing’.
Job done. You have our attention.
The key thing that follows then is an emotional hook. You’ve stopped us in our tracks. You now need to grab us by the heart strings and hold our attention.
And to that end, 60 Minutes trotted out three ‘victims’ of the coming housing crash.
All three were struggling to make their mortgage repayments (OMG, imagine if that was us!). One was sick, one was unemployed, and one had just seen their interest only loans rolled over to principal and interest.
Now at this point, it all just struck me as pretty strange. I mean take the sick bloke and the unemployed bloke. Should it come as any surprise that they’re struggling to meet their mortgage repayments?
I mean, imagine the headline: “Shock: Man with no income struggles to pay his mortgage”.
It’s hardly news right?
And then there’s the guy who was just about to retire, but then the bank rolled the loans on his portfolio of investment properties over to principal and interest.
That’s right, he had a “portfolio” of investment properties. They didn’t say how many, but it looked like a few.
Also, he had to have known it was coming. All interest only loans roll over at some point (usually after 3 or 5 years). So it was hardly a shock that he had to start paying more.
“Shock: Banks make man follow payment schedule outlined in his mortgage application”.
But I’m looking at these three stories, and I’m wondering what they’ve got to do with anything.
But they’re not there as evidence. They’re there purely to make you go, OMG, imagine if that was me. Imagine if I was in those shoes.
You have my complete and undivided attention.
And at that point, your prospect is primed for your sales pitch. But hang on, 60 Minutes doesn’t have a sales pitch..? Oh, but that’s right. Their sponsors do.
And this is how the media industry works.
So long story short, 60 Minutes is scaring the good folks of Australia, because that’s how they sell advertising air time.
It is regrettable that such a trusted institution is playing this game, but that’s just how it is, and how it’s always been.
You might also wonder if 60 Minutes is the hard hitting news force it used to be.
Because what followed the housing story?
A story about a woman who worries that the people who said they would clone her dead dog for her, just went out and bought one from the pet shop.