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If we do enough stories about sharks and waterslides we can afford to cover important news, says Next Media executive

Waterslide: popular news in Hong Kong

Waterslides: popular news

The head of the animation arm of one of Asia’s most innovative media companies has said that there is a need for one in every two news stories to be more popular than newsworthy to fund the company’s news gathering machine.

Talking at the Content Asia Summit in Singapore on the topic of what pays for expensive news coverage, Michael Logan, content development director at Taiwan’s Next Animation Studio, the Next Media-owned firm that produces animated versions of news stories for clients including Reuters, said his company is “purposefully comedic” in its treatment of stories, and that comedy brings out a valuable truth in news reporting.

“For me now, shark stories and waterslide stories are really big. If I can do enough of those, I can do the other important stories,” he said, noting that his company’s business model is built around generating large audiences and selling them to advertisers.

“When China kidnaps booksellers in Hong Kong and takes them to China, that’s an important story. It’s not necessarily a money making story, but it’s an important story. And I’m going to get the shark stories and the waterslide stories to pay for it.”

Logan estimated that the split between “popular” stories and “important” stories is 50:50. “We’ll be covering the Hong Kong elections this weekend. It’s not a big money getter, but it’s an important story for us,” said the former South China Morning Post and Taipei Times production and multimedia editor.

A question from the audience at the event suggested that comedy news shows such as Last Week Tonight With John Oliver in the US had succeeded in bringing greater clarity to news reporting than traditional sources. Logan responded that comedy was key in delivering news from a different angle.

“We are purposefully comedic – there are journalist truths that we can tell in that format. I worked for three newspapers before Next Animation. One thing I noticed was editors around me were always making fun on the news. They’d write a funny version of a headline before writing the final, serious headline. But there was a lot of truth in that funny headline.”

“All the editors I’ve worked with I’ve either hired from broadcast or print, and there was always the instinct to make fun of what’s happening, and there was a lot of truth in that,” he said.

“The serious broadcast doesn’t allow them to do that, and they come to Next and all of a sudden they can be funny. But it’s a different truth from what you’re used to getting from TV or print journalism.

A recent example of Next Animation’s work, discussed in the context of how Facebook live and body cams were adding different perspectives to news reporting, was the re-creation of the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina.

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