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The dangers of newsjacking – ambulance chasing is bad form

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 26th July 2011

You’d have thought with the recent bad press resonating around the media industry, publications would be particularly cautious about not upsetting the apple cart at the moment.

It seems not.

Mashable has been experiencing something of a backlash on social channels this week after it wrote a series of articles about Amy Winehouse following her death.

Critics have rounded on this move suggesting that a social media focused publication writing about the death of a singer is little more than link baiting and is in pretty bad taste. The defence points to the fact that the articles focus on how social media covered the story and that Mashable is increasingly positioning itself as a publication focused on popular culture.

I’m not sure I buy the defence. Either Mashable needs to work out what it stands for or it needs to stop jumping on every bandwagon just to get more hits.

Jumping on the bandwagon

But Mashable isn’t alone. Over at the Huffington Post, new blogger Tricia Fox has been widely condemned for posting a piece entitled – “Amy Winehouse’s Untimely Death Is a Wake Up Call for Small Business Owners”. In a quite incredible post she argues that businesses should learn from this sorry episode by making sure they are prepared for the unexpected.


Newsjacking – the well-regarded process whereby brands use topical issues to demonstrate their experience or knowledge – is generally a good PR practice. But it has to be managed carefully and sensitively.

Hopefully there are valuable lessons learnt here.

UPDATE: Microsoft need to be added to the list!

picture credit

  • The Huff Po and Mashable Whinehouse stories we’ve seen in the last couple of days are Daily Mail style traffic baiting pure and simple. Newsjacking is a great tactic but it needs to be authentic and in good taste.

  • John Brown

    Newsjacking is entirely ambulance chasing.  You can do it in poor taste and be regarded as a soulless, shameless marketeer or you can do it effectively and really add something to a debate or story.  But whichever way you look at it it’s ambulance chasing.

  • Thanks chaps. Yes agreed there is an element of ambulance chasing in all newsjacking, so the skill lies in judging when it is or isn’t appropriate.

  • Alexp

    Doesn’t this just tell you that main qualifier for such articles is not that they’re not ambulance-chasing, but more that they’re well-written, and, frankly, ambulance-chasing with good taste>