December 12, 2023
Melinda Head

How to Sell News

Just Follow Time’s Enduring Example (Minus Pets)

In 1927 Time announced its first Man of the Year (Person of the Year since 1999). Can you guess who? Does the name Charles Lindbergh mean anything to you?

Why Lindbergh? He made the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. It took him 33.5 hours from May 20-21, 1927. His custom-built aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis, is housed in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Barnstormer (stunt flyer) and air mail pilot, Charles Lindbergh was 25 years old when he became the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic

Today, a flight from New York to Paris takes 7 hours and 20 minutes. Before it was retired in 2003, the Concorde did it in 2 hours and 59 seconds, travelling at 1,350 mph.

Described as the most beautiful and impractical aircraft ever built, you can see an Air France Concorde on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia

According to Time, the Person of the Year is determined by the editorial staff’s assessment of the individual who most shaped the headlines in the previous 12 months. Makes sense – after all, Time is in the news business.

“The challenge is that on one hand, we’re trying to make a decision about who best represents the news of the year. But the pick also needs to have archival value. You need the sense that it will stand the test of time. So ideally, we want our Person of the Year to be both a snapshot of where the world is and a picture of where it’s going.  Someone, or in rare cases, something, that feels like a force of history.” (Kelly Coniff, Time)

However, I’d like to see, side-by-side, a scientifically determined People’s Choice Person of the Year, which takes me to: How did Taylor Swift become the 2023 Person of the Year? We’ll never know because the editorial selection process is secret. But we do know that it is a subjective decision, not an objective one. It’s a professional opinion.

Awarding Taylor Swift the accolade of Person of the Year will, no doubt, sell lots of magazines and bring in top advertising revenue. In marketing terms, we call that “lift”.

So what boxes did Taylor Swift tick?

  1. She is a young, attractive woman
  2. She is a huge celebrity with a mammoth following
  3. She has become incredibly rich, and recently joined the Billionaire’s Club

Taylor follows in the footsteps of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Person of the Year (2022)

I’m a bit tired of the relentless Taylor Swift marketing machine, but I do think Swift has done some sweet things, such as encouraging young people to vote (hugely important), and bucking some of the traditions of the powerful entertainment industry – including playing hardball with Spotify, re-recording albums to regain control of her song rights and bypassing movie studios to work directly with theaters.

Athlete of the Year is another Big Thing. This year, footballer Lionel Messi is The Man.

What boxes did he tick?

  1. He plays the world’s most popular sport
  2. He is the most decorated footballer of all time
  3. He just crossed the Pond to play for Inter Miami CF and is the rage of American football (soccer), as the US prepares to co-host (with Canada and Mexico) the 2026 FIFA World Cup
  4. He is also a member of the Billionaire’s Club

Messi follows in the footsteps of 6’7” New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge

One last tidbit. Do you know how Time got its iconic red border? This great YouTube video provides all the details. Beware, you’ll find questions about this in today’s Quiz of the Day.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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