Don’t Trust Headlines (especially this one)!

Since the 1950’s social scientists have been able to prove that our attention spans have dramatically diminished – a natural reaction to maintain personal sanity in the wake of the ever increasing intrusive noise we are subjected to from multi-faceted mediums determined to invade our space. As a result, we collect information today like we assemble a jigsaw puzzle. Piece by piece. Grab by grab. Enter the headline.

Its role is to do whatever it takes to grab your attention. Shock; humour; wit; truism; colloquialism; catch phrase; tautology. Whatever it takes. And there are certainly no rules about meticulously researched truth in headlines. Media is a business based on propaganda. And media proprietors and practitioners know that the more shocking the headline, the higher the readership and sales.

Twenty five years ago a colleague of mine told me to go home a watch the news that night and work out who had placed each story and why. The lesson he conveyed to me, was that outside natural disaster and calamity, every so-called news story was based on someone pushing an agenda and what appears as news is actually a well contrived system of dialogue around issues and agendas. A bit conspiracy theorist?

Surprisingly not.

There has never been a more important time for people associated with the retail industry to do their own research and come to their own conclusions about the subjects that affect their business and the livelihoods of those that depend on them. There are no shortcuts to knowledge and insight.

Don’t get me wrong. Good media has a very important role. To stimulate you to think, to challenge you to research and to come to your own conclusions – using that insight to inform your decisions and choices.

But media never has and never will tell the whole story nor the one that perfectly mirrors your exact individual paradigm. Every retailer’s context is different and requires careful examination. We are currently seeing a lot of very interesting developments in retail that in actual fact have very little to do with a situation caused by the four percent of failed mortgages in the United States of America and it’s knock on effect.

Whenever commentators and gurus predict the apocalypse, dig beneath the black and white and look at the shades of grey. Your truth lies in the shades of grey, not the black and white.

Context counts and at every point in every cycle and in every market, there are always winners and losers living side by side. Understanding your context leads to competitive advantage and the ability to self-determine the outcome.

But you won’t get the insight you need from media headlines. Time to dig a little deeper.