Friday Drop: Like Princess Di on Holy Moly

Only one story this week kept Andy 'give us a smile' Murray's inexorable march to ending 73 years of hurt from the front pages. Michael Jackson's passing still dominates the agenda, a week on.

Harvey Levin, managing editor, TMZ
Harvey Levin, managing editor, TMZ

Some journalists have now landed on a new angle. The scoop on the story of Jacko's death is widely credited to little-known website, TMZ. Run by former lawyer turned gossip king Levin, this four year old  website has had a potentially revolutionary effect on how big stories are broken. By relying on a vast network of contacts, one of whom was well-placed in the UCLA Medical Centre last Thursday, TMZ was able to break the news to the world.
 
Multiple sources such as Fox, Sky and the BBC actually quoted TMZ as the source, legitimising its position as a genuine source for news. Imagine Princess Diana's death being first reported on Holy Moly and we're getting somewhere close. As the week progressed, exclusive after exclusive emerged from TMZ such as the last picture and the 911 call. Levin's newsroom has won grudging respect from other outlets and is sure to use this scoop of a lifetime as a springboard, something likely to irk media traditionalists. Resistance is futile.
 
Lessons

Ensure that all exclusive material is branded to extend playback when it is syndicated

Large networks of freelance ‘sources' operate for websites and can be useful from a PR perspective to provide a way to influence a story

Small, less established outlets should not be discounted as viable channels to give exclusives and seed stories


 
Bad week for  AEG Live president Randy Phillips

 
Jackson's death means that AEG Live, the promoter of his O2 tour, faced losing £300 million. Cue an ill-judged damage limitation exercise from head honcho Randy Phillips. In the immediate aftermath of Jackson's death, AEG sources were quoted as saying that full refunds would be available to fans. To mitigate for the enormous losses that were likely for AEG, a ‘This is It!' tribute event was hastily planned by Phillips. "I imagine if we could do it, it would be done as a tribute, with the family, but also the stars who loved Michael." Phillips told the Daily Mail that the tribute show should happen, "obviously sooner rather than later". A crass comment, especially given the emotional state of the Jackson fan-base at that time.
 
The week got even worse for AEG when Sky News reported that fans had been offered the choice of a special hologram ticket instead of a full refund. Cue angered ticket holders peppering Twitter and news sites with angry words.  "I find AEG shameless and showing a lack of respect for MJ," said one fan. The week deteriorated further with news that Phillips was preparing a DVD of the final rehearsals. Bad.
 
 
Lessons

In situations such as this, some information needs to go out in a timely fashion. Moving on too quickly can have a negative impact

Cheap PR stunts such as the hologram tickets can lose you valuable sympathy (Habitat have also been criticised for similar tactics recently)

Mis-judging the public mood can have longer term reputational consequences

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