The Heard-Depp trial is big news and it tell us a lot about the future of news.
Personally, I did not follow it.
But that clearly makes me something of an outlier.
More than 18 million people watched it on TV news coverage in the United States.
I am sure the reason that NBC, ABC, CNN, CBS This Morning and everyone else often led with the story was that it was a sure fire ratings machine. “But it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that:” as Humphrey Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. Of course, in this case it was two little people, but close enough. Not compared to, say, events in Ukraine or inflation or Monkeypox for that matter. But since when has there been a correlation between importance of a story and ratings? Crazy world indeed.
But I digress.
What makes the Heard-Depp story really interesting, at least for those of us in the TV news business, is the numbers.
The network and cable news coverage was extensive — and expensive. Reporters, anchors, camera crews, writers, producers, live shots — wow. A lot of money spent to garner those 18 million eyeballs for a few minutes here and there.
But… and here’s the interesting part… the number of videos on TikTok with just the hashtag #justiceforjohnnydepp is…ready? 18 billion.
You read that right. 18 billion people watched the videos, just on TikTok, and just with that hashtag. Billions more, do doubt, watched videos with the hashtag #justiceforamber — and God only knows what other hashtags abounded.
Now, here is the even more interesting part of this story — and I don’t mean the settlement.
All of those videos on TikTok were produced at no cost.
No ‘reporters’, no high paid correspondents, no camera crews, no producers, no editors, no writers, no Vice President of news. No one. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Just someone with their iPhone and a story they wanted to tell or be a part of.
This tells us a lot.
Many years ago, I started training the residents of Erickson Retirement Communities to shoot and cut their own video. And this was before smartphones, so they had to use cameras. They took to it, because, let’s be honest, they didn’t have a whole lot else to do.
We used to have regular screenings of their stuff at the retirement homes. About a thousand people would turn up for the screenings. They loved the stuff their friends were doing. I would not call it professional, but it was very real.
At one of the screenings, I asked them, “what do you like better — the stuff you see on TV or the stuff your friends have done?”
“We like our stuff better,” they said.
“TV is too fast.”
On the basis of that, we launched RLTV — Retirement Living TV — in 30 million homes.
The viewers had spoken. They had also made the content!
When it comes to TikTok vs CNN or Fox, the viewers are speaking again, and quite loudly. And they are making their own content.
“We like our stuff better.”
You may try to jam CNN online and call it CNN+, but it costs a fortune and no one really wants to watch it.
Unleash regular people to tell their own stories, and you’ve got a sure fire winner — and at no cost at all.
Funny how that works.