Communications directors take note: In the Internet age, it’s impossible to predict—or control—just where the headlines will head. Take a look at the AIG story, for example.It’s an old story, really: The company’s intetions to pay out bonuses after accepting bail-out money is not new knowledge. But, as Nate Silver points out, the Post put a Sunday print story online on Saturday with two slight new pieces of reporting—and suddenly the story flared in the blogosphere. Waves of bloggers, first liberal and eventually conservative, jumped on the issue, leading to increased coverage in the mainstream media.Why did this story suddenly find legs? That’s unclear—and that unclarity is the lesson to be learned here:
[I]n the world of the highly-interconnected, 24/7 news-o-sphere, the propagation of particular news stories is in fact somewhat chaotic and unpredictable, subject to all sorts of network effects and power law distributions. . . [I]t’s harder than it used to be to predict what the headline will be on a given day. . . . [T]he possibility for tsunami-like waves of press coverage is probably far greater now than it used to be.
What may have begun as an approved leak gained speed online until it become a storyline that, according to at least some newspapers, is draining Obama’s political capital. The only lesson may be one of caution: There is only so much control you can have.