Two thousand nineteen will forever be known as The Year of Bigfoot.
Maybe not in your town but if you live in my town and especially if you work with me at the newspaper — I realize I am narrowing this down to about a half-dozen people — we have scientific proof that 2019 was The Year of Bigfoot.
It is right there smack-dab in the analytics. This is not scientific proof that Bigfoot exists, mind you, but scientific proof that we had a Bigfoot festival (the second annual such festival in this neck of the woods), thousands of people attended and thousands more read about it online and looked at the photos on the newspaper’s website. They saw people posing with Sasquatch replicas, conversing with cryptozoological experts and eating funnel cakes.
Bigfoot was the most popular story/mythological creature of the year. It’s right there in the internet page views, and page views don’t lie unless Russian hackers manipulate them.
The internet is blamed for the death of newspapers, even though a bunch of them are still alive and kicking, just not kicking as high as they used to.
No media genius can seem to figure out how to go back to printing money like the good old days. Most of that money went to the people who owned the presses, not the ones who wrote the stories and took the pictures, so the good old days were better for some than others.
But one of the positives of the internet is that those of us on the front lines now know what most people want rather than what a lot of people say they want, even if we really knew it all along.
In my 30-plus years in the local newspaper business, I have heard this statement or a variation of this statement more than any other: “We need more good news in the paper.”
I agree. I personally would like to read a positive story with a headline like this:
“SMALL-TOWN NEWSPAPER EDITOR HITS LOTTERY JACKPOT.”
Maybe in the third or fourth paragraph there would be an uplifting, feel-good sentence like this:
“The newly minted multimillionaire, who was wearing a large cowboy hat and no pants at the press conference, said he plans to purchase ‘a drop-top Cadillac, a rhinestone Nudie suit, a monkey butler and a first-class seat on the next tourist flight to the International Space Station.’”
That’s the thing about good news. People prefer it when it’s about them. When it’s news about someone else (other than Bigfoot), analytics show that scandal and misfortune attract far more eyeballs.
For example, a story about a 16-year-old student named Kiwanis Club Citizen of the Week will inevitably get fewer page views than a story about a 16-year-old student arrested for stealing an activity bus and setting it ablaze on the 50-yard line of the football stadium.
The latter’s grandma may understandably want more good news in the paper that day, but everyone in her SilverSneakers class will click and forward and hashtag the heck out of Junior’s unfortunate “railroading” by the cruel criminal justice system.
But Bigfoot news transcends all. If someone came up to me today and said, “We need more Bigfoot news in the paper,” I would say: “Yes we do. People can’t get enough Bigfoot news, and the analytics prove it.”
Coverage of the Bigfoot festival and related Bigfoot stories — we had a couple of sightings in 2019 as well — garnered far more online page views than any other news, good, bad or indifferent.
Yes, 2019 was The Year of Bigfoot in my neck of the woods.
What will 2020 hold?
Will the Kiwanis Club name Bigfoot Citizen of the Week? Will Bigfoot steal an activity bus and set it ablaze on the 50-yard line of the football stadium? Will a small-town newspaper editor hit the lottery jackpot, purchase a drop-top Cadillac, a rhinestone Nudie suit, a monkey butler and a first-class seat on the next tourist flight to the International Space Station?
Keep reading the paper (in print or online) to find out.