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Is the silly season dead – or does stupid news now bombard us throughout the year?

14th August 2013

There are plenty of “fun” stories in the news right now, but many in PR don’t believe they are part of any “silly season” as these items appear all year round. As Sandhya Shyam, associate director at PR agency Dimoso, says: “The silly season is becoming a defunct page in the British media calendar. Can August really compete with our endless appetite for the quirky, oddball stories that the internet and social media feeds provide us 365 days a year? You can find stories about Kate Middleton shaped crisps just about any day of the year these days – why wait for August? There tends to be a lull in hard, particularly business news in August, but the fact is that there has been genuinely credible news to report on this summer. A successful British sports team, ongoing unrest in the Middle-East, a potential leadership contest, even the Royal birth. In fact this year, there seems to be more stories about the fact that it is silly season. Perhaps we are reaching an age where the traditional quirky August story is relegated to Twitter feeds and the regional press.”
Martin Brindley, managing director of PR agency DMG Europe, believes that if the silly season does still exist, then it is only gripping on by its fingertips. He explains why the silly season is outdated: “The silly season idea stems from the dark-distant past when the majority of a PROs targets were made up of paper and ink, rather than bits and bytes. The fact that publications ‘dropped’ an issue in the summer meant that PROs would have nothing to pitch for, so it consequently ensured that clients held back any serious news until September. They still had to fill the gap (and justify the hours in the retainer) by coming up with silly stories during the summer. This is of course very outdated thinking though. A quick straw poll we undertook with online news site editors showed that traffic to websites only decreases on average by 24 per cent in August, so there is still a pressure on them to maintain fresh content in a similar vein to any other month in the calendar.”
It appears there is no season for ridiculous news stories any more. Anne Massey, editorial consultancy proprietor, says: “It’s always silly season for the red tops which are full of vacuous non-stories about even D-list ‘personalities’ all year round.”
Just because something is silly, does not mean it is newsworthy. Massey describes the types of fun stories she approves of: “The Welsh council cannabis plants story [see below] was newsworthy on several levels, it’s British, it’s humorous, it’s human interest and best of all, it pokes fun at local council bureaucracy (usually a po-faced – as opposed to egg-on-the-face – lot).
“More stories like this all year round, please. However, one vital question remains unanswered: Why didn’t anyone pinch the plants before the story became national news? I demand to know!”
Top three silly summer stories

Council cannabis crop

On 5 August, listeners to BBC Radio 4's Today programme heard how cannabis was found in council flower pots: “Council officials in Newport are trying to discover who planted cannabis in flower pots put out to brighten up the city. More than 20 of the illegal plants were discovered nestling amongst begonias and petunias in the street flower displays.”

Fat ball threatens city
The Guardian describes a terrifying tale of how London was almost destroyed by a lump of fat: “A sewage worker has become an unlikely hero after taking three weeks to defeat a toxic 15-tonne ball of congealed fat the size of a bus that came close to turning parts of the London borough of Kingston upon Thames into a cesspit.”

icePads fail to work
The Mirror tells of a stupid con, where two men posted ice blocks, hoping to claim they were iPads and claim compensation: “two bungling conmen who tried to pass off ice cubes as iPads were rumbled when they melted, a court heard …They planned to post it by special delivery then claim £2,500 compensation from Royal Mail when it failed to arrive at the other end.”

Written by Daney Parker

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