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B2B Marketing, B2B PR, Guides and advice, Opinion, Sector knowledge

Why is tech news only happy when it rains?

Has the conversation around tech always been so negative? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that every second headline I read about tech today is just doom and gloom.

The excitement around AI has been drowned out by the fear of it. “Is it going to steal my job?” “Is it going to destroy the education system?” “Is it going to derail world politics?”

Every day there is a new cyber-threat to be afraid of. A new financial scam to be aware of. A new health condition that is “caused by excessive tech use.”

All valid concerns, to a degree. And worth addressing if they become a serious threat to our society and wellbeing. But with so many worst case scenarios constantly being hurled at us by news sites (and brands) to ramp up clicks and engagement, I’m calling it for what it really is: catastrophising for the sake of clickbait.

Why does pessimism sell?

Unsurprisingly, there’s a reason why many headlines we see today dwell on the negative.

To start, humans have what is known as a ‘negativity bias’. Our brains actually have an innate tendency to react more intensely to negative stimuli (in this case, news stories) and dwell on them for longer, too. How delightful!

And with the world becoming increasingly digital, and more people now accessing their news online instead of in magazines and newspapers, publishers are leaning into this in a bid to cash in.

A recent study, which looked at over 100,000 news headline variations, found that those with negative terms achieved more clicks, while positive terms actually decreased the level of engagement. A separate study in the US sheds further light on this. It found that the volume of news headlines conveying negative sentiment (anger, fear, sadness) has risen significantly between 2000 and 2019.  

Our love/ hate history with tech

It’s clear that the negativity economy is booming. But why is the tech sector the face of it?

Well, there’s a long history of people having phobias of new tech. The arrival of the radio sparked a lot of fears when it was first invented and broadcasting was introduced, in the 1920s. Much of the discourse at the time followed similar patterns to what we see in today in the press surrounding new tech. “What about the children?! What if they spend all of their time listening to the radio, and then they forget how to read and write?!”

When telephones were introduced, people feared that they would be used to contact the deceased, or people in the afterlife. And “computerphobia” became extremely common when personal computers hit the scene, with people developing a serious paranoia around how much computers knew about them, or whether they would eventually outsmart them and take over the world.

Fast forward to today, and a recent poll has found that just under half (45%) of people are afraid AI will steal their job, and over a third (34%) fear we will “lose control” of it altogether. Starting to sound familiar?

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An appetite for tech optimism

Tech and bad news clearly have a long history of working side-by-side. And many storytellers in this space are only ever happy when it’s raining (a Garbage reference, for those that didn’t catch it…)

But lately, I’ve noticed a growing appetite for something more positive and refreshing. On TikTok, the Frutiger Aero aesthetic made a comeback this year. If you grew up as a nerd in the 2000s (like me), you will remember this as the surreal, futuristic design that was commonly found on desktop computers, and depicted tech’s future as a fun, bright utopia. The hashtag now has over 100 million views on TikTok, as more and more people reminisce of a time when the future of tech seemed promising and optimistic.  

And according to recent research, a large proportion of people are starting to avoid the news altogether, for fear that bad news or constant ‘doomscrolling’ will negatively impact their mood. We’re witnessing a tipping point in the way tech is portrayed in the mainstream, and it may be time to switch gears.

Advice for brands and marketers

Marketers can play an important role in bringing this tech optimism back, and making the news a happier, more balanced place.

As someone who works predominantly with clients in the tech sector, it can be tempting to lead with the negative when sending out a press release, or writing a blog post, in order to catch the readers’ eye.

However, it’s important to understand the goal and how you want your brand to come across in the long run. If clicks and website traffic is the number one priority, then scaremongering tactics and clickbait may offer a temporary fix, or some quick wins. If long-term brand building and establishing trust with your audience is more important (and it should be!), then consider leading with the challenge, and not the threat.

At Skout, we’re lucky to be working with tech companies that are addressing important (albeit sensitive) world issues, from financial wellbeing and global e-waste to financial compliance and cybersecurity. It would be so easy for us to live in the negative, and churn out press release after press release about the cost of living crisis, tax evasion, and inescapable cyber-threat. But would that make our clients’ target audience feel motivated and confident about adopting their solution, and solving the challenge at hand? Or would it scare them into disengaging altogether after a certain tipping point? There’s growing evidence to suggest the latter, and that there is, in fact, such thing as being too negative!

There are issues in the world that we must deal with, yes, and it’s by no means going to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. But by framing big issues as challenges, rather than our impending downfall, and championing tech as our way forward, we not only create a better space to educate readers about our clients’ solution. We also do our bit to make the daily news cycle that little bit brighter.

Learn more about how Skout can help you through a crisis by getting in touch with us.

About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

B2B Marketing, B2B PR, Guides and advice, Opinion, Sector knowledge

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