#thedress and news values: an obligatory rough analysis

Who would have thought a debate over the colour of a dress would become the most important news item of the day. Somewhere, in Fictional Character World, Kent Brockman and Ron Burgandy are high-fiving each other. By the end of the day, it felt if news organisations knew they'd gone beyond parody and embraced #thedress's ridiculousness. Whether that's a good thing is another question.

Somebody (and apologies for not crediting - I really should have favourited the Tweet) noted that news organisations had gone from having their news agenda being discussed on Twitter and laughing at the reaction to being led by what Twitter was discussing and then having Twitter laughing at them.

It's certainly an odd distortion of news values - albeit a trend satirists have been mining for several decades now - when Sky News' top story essentially started out as a well-identified piece of trending clickbait on BuzzFeed (and I mean that in a very complementary sense to BuzzFeed). DigiDay have a very good analysis of why so many media organisations leapt on this bandwagon and their conclusion is hard to fault. In a battle between places like Time and The Telegraph and BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed will win every time because it's what they do best. Of course no self-respecting online editor will pass up writing a story they know will attract thousands of clicks, even If a rival has done it quicker and better.

But BuzzFeed do what they do better than anyone and are truer to their brand vision. Time trying to ape BuzzFeed just results in a sameification race of content with one winner. Of course, adding value and context to the debate is one way of "moving the story on" and Wired's piece on optical differences was the first and the best (and followed by several others doing it not quite as well) but even at the end of the day, every last drop of coverage from the original premise was still being strung out.

But equally it's understandable why publications leapt on the story. It was all anybody in my office and Facebook was talking about. It was a very 21st century watercooler moment, it was simple, shareable and talkable. While in previous years this conversation would have been around, say, the jailing of Deirdre Barlow (also a little iffy in terms of news values to justify a top billing), now it's internet trends. Lucy Beale's killer apart, TV isn't the force in driving these moments that it once was and network execs should also take note. That was once you. Now the tail is most definitely wagging the dog.

As for Kent Brockman and Ron Burgundy? They're probably pouring themselves another whisky and high-fiving right now.