Formats Unpacked: The News

How a format organised everything that happened in the world today...

Hi all

Today’s unpacking comes from Munich, home of the brilliant performance artist and communications expert Marcus John Henry Brown. Marcus has worked in comms for over 25 years and splits his time between mentoring creatives, thinking about the future and creating performance art that hacks business contexts. He’s also got a great YouTube channel full of formats he’s created.

I was surprised and delighted when this landed in my email earlier this week. Surprised because that’s what Marcus does. And delighted because it’d never occurred to me that the format is as brilliant as it is, which you’re about to find out.

Over to you Marcus

What’s it called?

It’s called many things in different countries and it can be found on various channels but let’s just call it The News

What’s the magic that made it so special?

Let’s get precise here: I’m talking about “The News” and not a 24/7 rolling news channel. I’m talking about “The nine o’clock news” or what we call “Tagesschau” here in Germany. I’m talking about a ten-minute show that just works. We’ve got ten minutes to cover as much stuff as we possibly can so that as many people as possible can understand what’s going on in the world.

The magic of “The Newsis its formatting: we start with breaking news, then international news, then national news, business news, sports and, just before we get to the weather we have that left field, human interest story that reminds us that not everything in the world is an absolute shit-show. The format stays the same. It’s the same every day, but “The News” is always different.

We’ll have a politician per satellite link, a reporter standing in the wind and rain, a pre-recorded interview with a finance minister or a CEO of another bankrupt bank. Production companies all around the world are writing scripts for Netflix to tempt audiences to binge the dramas and tragedies of a fictional world, but real-world drama happens on the hour, every hour with The News

The News is such an impactful format because it has seeped its way into our collective media DNA. We just know what’s going to happen next: we just don’t know where and to whom. Something terrible is going to happen and someone is going to win the Grand Prix in Dubai and there will be points won and lost on the Stock Exchange.

There will be motion-graphics, info-graphics, statistics and more. There’ll be CCTV-footage, an eye-witness account from Sharon in Maidstone and statements made from local police enforcement. That’s why The Day Today was so funny and so powerful: they just had to pour the madness into the framework, and the audience intuitively understood what was going on. 

Many event and conference organisers have been scrambling around, looking for a way to save a business model that had become lazy, greedy and disrupted by a virus. Et voila! The News.

The News is like a virtual conference of disasters, human interest triumphs and shocking horror stories from around the world. “He was such a pleasant man, a good customer, who’d have thought he could do such a thing? Over to our reporter at the Old Bailey. John, what do we know about Raymond Reddington? Back to the studio where Michael has a security expert on MS Teams.

Favourite episode.

Can you have a favourite episode of The News? There are undoubtedly unforgettable episodes that have burned themselves into my memory: when the Chernoble story broke, or when Diana died - maybe when Germany won the World Cup (the last time Germany won the World Cup). 9/11. The Brexit Vote. The day that Bowie died. Episodes, like polaroids, fading in the sun. 

And now over to Hugh with The Weather.

Thanks Marcus.

And finally…

It would be great to get a couple of game or comic formats unpacked. If you fancy unpacking one get in touch.

Thanks for reading this week. If you’ve enjoyed it please share it with your friends and colleagues. And if you need help with your content strategy or production that’s what we do, so let’s chat.

See you all next week,