A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

What’s the bad news?

Marshall McLuhan (January 24, 1969, age 57). It takes bad news to sell good news

As I was telling our Prime Minister, the coolest of the cool – Pierre Elliott Trudeau – the press, the newspapers, are ever on the lookout for bad news.  Friction is inevitable.  They are relentless in their search for bad news.  The bad news is what sells the good news, which is advertising, which is what keeps the newspapers going.  Incidentally, as you can see simply by opening your morning paper it takes a great deal of bad news to sell the good news of relief from perspiration, halitosis, and ring around the collar.

Me (April 2010, age 57).  What is your bad news?

If Marshall McLuhan is right, the problem with business today is that all they have to offer is good news.  What this means is that no one will want to read or hear what businesses have say unless businesses pay to have their messages snuck in along side of the bad news people will willingly read.

How can you get people to listen to what you have to say if all you have to tell them is good news?  Where can you find the bad news to set a long side your good news?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 362.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to What’s the bad news?

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    McLuhan in our class often asked the question, “What is news?” He seemed fascinated by the concept. When preoccupied with “news” he would have a laugh about the NYTimes slogan- all the news that’s fit to print. During discussions at the Monday Night Seminars when someone broached something McLuhan could with characteristic timing ( about a 1/2 beat- ie. faster than a blink) retort, “That’s news to me!”

    I think of the good news bad news thing, that he had sent it to the trash bin by the 70’s and was seriously thinking about news in a way that we might think about it in the past,present,future continuum of Digi!

    But do you dear reader find this news to you? or even fit to print?

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