Thursday, July 19, 2007

More hype around Corporate Buzzwords

Word Play once again gets tongues rolling, as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Management Line blogs report on some new Factiva media analysis.

The analysis looks at the frequency of terms such as "fast track", "going forward" (as opposed to "going backwards"), "user friendly", "empower", "downsizing", "multitasking", "core competency", "customer centric", "client focused" and "rightsizing" in the mainstream media, and tabulates them in charts. You can also see which publications most frequently quote these terms, althought bear in mind, it's not necessarily the publications that are the gobbledygook-touting culprits, but the spokespeople they are quoting! There's a healthy discussion going on in the blogs about what other terms annoy people.

My colleague in Australia, Chris Pash, developed the analysis using our recently launched Factiva Insight: Agency Analytics.

Factiva Insight: Agency Analytics is cool because it allows users who are not necessarily familiar with boolean search strings and power searching, to access our vast content collection and media analytics software, to create insightful charts.

The product is designed for PR agency teams who need to create quick but robust media analysis for use in pitch development, account planning and client management. For us, internally, it's a great way to generate meaningful content that gets the Factiva and Dow Jones brands out there.



Anonymous Billy Dawson said...

I have my own "Media Analysis" of terms in mainstream media that annoy me. It's really only one term. The most annoying thing about it - while once something of a taboo - is it's increase in popularity.
What makes its usage hard to accept is the pure FACT that the term itself lends no credibility or integrity (the heart and soul of journalism) to anything!

The term I am referring to:
"on condition of anonymity."

Am I alone in this? Am I overreacting? I don't think so. When I studied journalism, we were taught to quote sources. Three - if you could. All of a sudden, "journalists" don't have to quote a source. All of a sudden, a rogue writer (and there have been a few at major publications) can use "on condition of anonymity" to fill space and say whatever they feel, with no fear of anyone finding out, because the source is anonymous.
I understand the necessity of the term - the once-thought-of-as-a-last-resort trump card to make the story. The term is way out of line now though - the term indicates no credibility but is used as much to try and get it.
A simple search of the term "on condition of anonymity" shows from August of 1990 to August of 1999, the phrase was published in 24,296 articles (that has access to). From August of '03 to today, the phrase has been published 55,867 times (averaging 13,966 per year, a WHOPPING 500% increase from the 9 year sample). The most overwhelming proof of it's sudden surge is the from the post-9/11 era: In a one year segment, from September 10, 2000 through September 10, 2001, the phrase was published 5,985 times, an increase of a little over 100% from the previous 9 years. However, from September 11, 2001 through September 11, 2002, the phrases use increased 700% to 18,929 times - ALL IN ONE YEAR! The phrases use increased by 820% from the previous 9 year average, between September 11, 2002 and September 11, 2003.

What does this mean? People are scared to talk in a post 9/11 world? Were people more willing to offer up information without fear of reprisals pre 9/11?
Why have people, sources, been so willing to spill the beans but unwilling to clean them up? Why have "journalists" allowed that to be the case?

While I haven't seen every article with that phrase, I was obviously onto something when I began writing this. Your blog entry prompted me to search further and see if I was crazy - or if I truly had been affected in some way, by the use of that phrase. And I was right. Numbers don't lie. I knew my sense of journalism was being betrayed, and I had to get to the bottom of it. Speaking of that, the 'Bottom Line' is this: at this pace, by the end of August 2009 (using the standard 9 year formula), the phrase "ON THE CONDITION OF ANONYMITY" will have been published 124,677 times. It's rolling toward that right now, as I have a track folder set up with an alert everytime the phrase is used - I've gotten 7 alerts while writing this!

I only wish I could use Insight to really track these numbers because I'm sure they are much higher than what Factiva simple search can find. At least that's what my Insight specialist, on the condition of anonymity, told me.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Melanie Surplice said...

Hey Billy, interesting post, and I agree - that phrase, "on condition of anonymity" seems to be used with alarming regularity.

I also studied journalism and was taught the 3-quote rule. And while I've never worked in a newsroom or as a professional journalist who had to quote an anonymous source, I always question articles that reference them, or "people familiar with the situation".

I guess there's the trade-off with using anonymous sources or not getting a story out at all - but it always sounds like a well-placed leak when I read that phrase - or it suggests that there's something slightly dodgy going on. That said, I've also seen named sources entirely misquoted. I know from experience (ie, sitting on the phone with a spokesperson and a journalist), that mistakes are made, misunderstandings occur, and in some cases, that journalists (un-named, of course) use poetic license in their articles and somehow seem to write the complete opposite of what was actually said.

Very happy to hear though that your Factiva track alerts are keeping you updated about the latest entries of your favourite term.


11:03 PM  

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