Content Marketing Blog

Risk aversion drives demand for negative news stories

Consumers in developed economies get more value from negative news stories than positive news stories, according to a new study.

Research published in the journal Information Economics and Policy revealed that people in richer countries tend to be more risk averse, meaning they take a keener interest in news content that warns of impending doom.

The researchers said that their findings cast doubt on the assumption that negativity in mainstream media was driven by the gloomy outlooks of editors and newspaper owners. It seems people just prefer bad news.

“When you are very poor and hungry each dollar is worth a lot as it helps you buy enough food to eat,” explained Professor Jill McCluskey, who led the research. “But once you have more money and can count on regular meals, it’s the losses that will affect you more. In terms of happiness and well-being, a $1,000 loss will affect you more than a $1,000 windfall.”

The researchers said news stories about food scares, such as mad cow disease, were  among the strongest drivers for consumer behaviour, leading to people to avoid eating beef or shunning meat entirely.

Read: How blog comments influence decision making

For content marketers and website owners this research is a useful reminder that negative content for blogs or news sections can be a powerful call to action.

By highlighting a risk that your target market is facing and then presenting what you sell as a potential solution you can tap into this tendency for risk aversion and create really strong conversion opportunities.

As with any marketing tactic, you need to be careful not to overdo it or pick inappropriate opportunities to push your products and services. Social media can be unforgiving when brands make crass attempts to cash in on people’s fears.

But if you can get the balance right, negative news stories can be an excellent source of fresh content ideas. As well as giving people what they want (at least, according to this new research), you’ll also be able to tap into spikes in search demand while stories are trending.

Putting your own spin on relevant news stories also helps to avoid your content becoming too repetitive, which is often a risk with content that you hope will have a longer shelf life (how to…, top 10…, 3 ways to… etc).

By using a new or recent news hook to build your content ideas around, you’re able to revisit topics that work for your blog without creating content that’s too similar to pages already sitting in your archive. Content that’s too similar is not only bad for search, but it will also turn off your readers.

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