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Often, when it comes to online marketing, people tend to measure the success of a content marketing strategy with the evolution of traffic. Newsjacking is one tactic which can drive it. But is it good for your content marketing strategy?

What is Newsjacking?

Newsjacking is a very well chosen name for this tactic and rather self explanatory. You probably know the expressions hijacking or car jacking from the news, a term employed for a robbery while the vehicle is in control of the rightful person. Well newsjacking isn’t robbery, I’ll tell you that upfront. So what does it consist in? Marketing speaker and thought leader David Meerman Scott came up with the best definition in my mind:

Newsjacking graph

The life of a news story, graph by David Merman Scott

[Newsjacking is] he process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.

Often, newsjacking results in (ridiculous) attempts to combine a trending topic with the business’ field. Sometimes it’s quite easy and a good way to show some humor and make people laugh (or at least smile) which, if done right, is always good and lovable for businesses.

The difficult thing about newsjacking is that you have to react quickly for it to have the maximum impact. If you don’t, you’ll just be one of those who followed the first one who picked it up… In the large majority of the cases, it results in rather desperate attempts to “surf” on breaking news and drive traffic, mostly promoted on social media, e.g. by picking up a trending hashtag or connecting the business field with a popular topic (like Justin Bieber and SEO or GTA V and Screwdrivers).

Tempting… but is it appropriate?


This is a rather desperate attempt to drive traffic…

I want to ask the question: is newsjacking an intelligent tactic for your content marketing strategy? I imagine many content marketers are confronted with the issue of proving the ROI of content marketing (which I am going to write about in a later post) and social media managers want to create buzz to grow the reach and community.

Don’t take the shortcut by measuring the effectiveness of your content strategy with metrics such as traffic or growth in the fan / follower base alone. The important thing is how much visitors to convert into subscribers -> clients -> loyal clients (and brand advocates). Of course traffic is an important metric, but it’s not the ultimate objective or your content strategy!

What’s the news you want to “surf on”?

Some topics are easier to newsjack than others. Last year, when hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of North America, many people used it to engage in newsjacking. Rather risky, given the personal impact such an event has for people affected (directly or indirectly)…

Other news are less risky, but not less inappropriate or ridiculous. A couple of month ago, an inbound marketing agency published a post stating that GTA V did a good “inbound” job in their campaign. Very far-fetched, their campaign didn’t involve inbound marketing at all, merely “teasing.” It drove significant traffic to the site,

It’s harder than it looks

I think in the end it all comes down to the old question: quality or quantity? The very first commandment of every content strategy is: know your audience. If you really know your audience, you’ll be able to identify if a newsjacking opportunity is worth picking up. Several times I heard people say: “the newsjacking worked, we cracked our traffic record on the website.” Well congratulations, but in fact, it just means is that people clicked on it. But did you deliver? Or did your audience just shake their heads. You’ve got to keep track of this!

Chinese Word for crisisNewsjacking is tempting because of the potential traffic it can bring to your site. The chinese word for crisis is composed of 2 characters of the Mandarin alphabet. Seperately, they mean “risk” and “opportunity”… Well newsjacking is just that: a risky opportunity which, if done wrong, could resist in a crisis which can damage your image…

Msc. in International Marketing, Content and Inbound Marketing professional and serial blogger. I am passionate about online marketing but also music and event marketing.


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