Are ‘Newsjackers’ the Marketers of the Future? Or Mercenaries in their Own Field?

We currently live in a media dominated age, where in which humour and satire gains more traction than the news itself. However, this abundance of connectivity is proving fertile ground for social media marketers, as they utilise the technique of Newsjacking. And no, Newsjacking does not refer to someone robbing the local newsagents for their broadsheets. In fact, it relates to the piggybacking of news and events, to boost a brands overall reach. David Meerman Scott (2014) described it as ‘the art of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story’.

The technique consists of a news story breaking and media outlets releasing news flashes. Then, as journalists being to write articles about the event of interest, they search for links to the story to add depth. This is the crucial point, just before these articles are written and published, where marketers release promotions, or campaigns related to the news-matter, to hope journalists include them within their report. Utilising social media is a key method of creating a buzz and gaining shareability. Newsjacking allows a business to reach a significantly larger audience, as well as utilising diverse sources to enhance public opinion towards that business. However, it is solely reliant on timing, as it’s essential to capture the attention of journalists when appropriate.

A well-known example of newsjacking is success is the 2013 Oreo Superbowl ‘dunk in the dark’ tweet which utilised the terrestrial blackout to illustrate the brands playful attitude and most importantly, gain large scale attention (over 10,000 retweets!). The news story was perfectly suited to Newsjacking through social media, because there were more than 24.1 million tweets about the event, and at the point of blackout, 231,500 tweets a minute occurred. Through utilising the social media platform of Twitter, it allowed consumers to interact with the brand and possibly, improve public opinion towards the business. As a result, gaining viral attention through Newsjacking will have truly benefited the brand.


However, if a business is too late, they simply won’t be incorporated into any articles and “become part of the story” (Meerman Scott, 2014: 0min 30). Therefore, the difficulty of implementing an effective newsjacking strategy within a business would not only be highly difficult to time correctly, but expensive to constantly monitor and assess breaking news and whether it’s suitable to be utilised.

Furthermore, the use of newsjacking can potentially undermine important events. The line between right and wrong can easily become very blurred when firms become too hungry for success. American Apparel began a campaign known as ‘SandySale’ in 2012, which directly utilised a hurricane to reach wider audience. However, the hurricane led to major displacement across the U.S and 55 deaths, so far from an ethical approach.

As a result, many outlets did write articles, but solely upon the campaign being ill thought out and highly insensitive. This led to major semantic noise with hampered the business’s future promotions. While the CEO blamed the notable decrease in sales due to the closure of stores as a result of the hurricane (Edwards, 2012), but it’s likely the disastrous attempt at newsjacking played a major role.

In conclusion, the use of Newsjacking is a bit of a dangerous game to play. Through corporations giving free rein to social media departments and marketing firms, it’s likely ethics will continue to fade as they all compete to become the viral success.

Author: Daniel Atkinson


David Meerman Scott – D’Amelio Network. (2014) Newsjacking Defined: DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT – Fearless Marketing. [Online video] Accessed 07.01.2019

Terdiman, D. (2013) How Oreo’s brilliant blackout tweet won the Super Bowl. Cnet. [Online] Accessed 07.01.2019

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