I opened up the Los Angeles Times this morning (I still subscribe to the print version) and found, in the front page index box, a little photo of Yuja Wang in that little red dress, a promo for a story in Calendar, the newspaper’s arts and entertainment section. ‘Her again?’ I thought in my semi-conscious, pre-caffeinated state.
Splashed above the fold in Calendar was yet another photo of Wang, in full color and skimpy regalia, strutting her considerable stuff upon the Hollywood Bowl stage. Below were not one, but two, full-length stories, one by Times’ music critic Mark Swed, both jumping to a considerable spread inside, and discussing and parsing and analyzing said dress into its constituent parts and meanings. At least I think that’s what they were about — I didn’t read either one.
Personally, I don’t find the story interesting. Am I a snob? Possibly. But it’s more that I find the Yuja Wang scandal, if that’s what it is, terribly predictable. I already know what everyone will say, blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda, and so, dear reader, do you. And at this point, as the story has spread throughout the internet, everything that can possibly be said about Yuja Wang’s dress has been said.
But I don’t blame the Times, or not much. I know what happened. They got a ton of hits on Mark’s review of Yuja Wang’s dress and they saw the folks all over the internet discussing Mark’s review of Yuja Wang’s dress and they thought — since they’re a business and all — that maybe they ought to follow up on Yuja Wang’s dress.
Yuja Wang gets a lot of hits at Classical Life, too. A few days ago, I posted Yuja Wang’s little red dress, and it has been topping my hit parade ever since, even though I had virtually nothing to say about Wang and her dress. The headline was enough to attract readers. I can see on my blog dashboard that readers are searching for stories about Yuja Wang’s dress. Among the search terms used this morning that brought readers to this blog (according to the dashboard), 15 of them involved Yuja Wang, some of them used multiple times. Included among them: “Yuja Wang is hot” and “little red dress.”
The same phenomenon is behind much that is covered in the media today. Online, they know what you’re reading, and they know what you’re not reading, and so, naturally (but stupidly in my opinion, but we won’t get into that now), the media gives readers (and viewers) what they want. I got upwards of 13,000 hits on a story I wrote for my newspaper recently, and something like 120 comments, which is considerably more than I ever got for a story on classical music.
Was it brilliant? Certainly not. Was it interesting? Not really. But it was about Rebecca Black. And as long as readers keep clicking on stories about Rebecca Black and Yuja Wang, newspapers are going to keep writing same.