The News Tries to Convince You to Buy More Stuff

I’m a bit of a news addict. I love reading the latest news on a variety of topics and I visit a couple dozen news-related sites multiple times a day.

While I love being informed, what I don’t love is how reading the news often creates or stokes a desire in me to buy something I don’t really need.

Here’s what I mean. I just visited the front page of CNN.com to read the headlines. Right on the front page, I found links to the following articles:

This matters? Lobster iPhone case
The top 12 tech stories of 2012 (most of which revolved around well-marketed consumer products)
The 10 best video games of 2012
Honda Civic: New year, new look
Starbucks’ new reusable $1 cups
Pretty much the entire Travel section

What do these articles have in common? None of them convey actual newsworthy material. Instead, they all came off as re-writes of PR releases from consumer product companies. The Honda Civic “news” in particular felt like an ad for the new Civic, something that I had no interest in or awareness of before viewing the article. The top ten video games list made several games I had vaguely heard of sound like things that I absolutely must play – my interest in buying those games would likely be significantly boosted if I weren’t thinking about it carefully.

The “news” served, in large part, to introduce me to products I’d never heard of (and make those products sound great), while also stoking my interest in products I was already aware of.

Naturally, an increased desire in those products leads to an increased chance of buying them.

Why is that a bad thing? Before I read the articles, I wasn’t even aware of most of the products. They served absolutely no need or no desire in my life. Knowing what the “top” video game of the year is or about the new products from Starbucks or Honda serves no benefit at all in my life.

All that reading those articles achieves is encouraging me to spend money on stuff that I don’t need and didn’t even want until the “news” told me about it.

In marketing terms, it’s all about “mindspace.” The more time you think positively about a product, the more likely you are to buy that product. A news article that talks glowingly about a product is pure gold from a marketing perspective.

If you want to start cutting back on your consumer desires, one way to do it is to be more selective with your news reading. If an article is talking about a consumer product that you don’t need, just skip the article and go on to something else. Don’t even give that article a chance to build mindspace.

You’ll find over time that you know a little less about the latest and greatest consumer products… but you also don’t really want most of them, either. The money you might spend on those things you don’t really need is much more likely to stay in your pocket and help you build the future that you want.

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