The popularity of “Weird News” online has exponentially increased as social media become more ubiquitous in our society. As people spend more time in socializing online, they are sharing more and more content and it’s human nature to share what someone considers to be funny and unusual. Because “Weird News” has so many inherent viral characteristics that contribute value to website optimization and monetisation, a whole cottage industry has developed around seeking out, recasting, or even fabricating the most bizarre stories imaginable. I’ve always had a naughty sense of humor and never could I’ve imagined that I’m able to read several high quality “Weird News” items each day without spending any effort seeking them out.
However, the roots of my “Weird News Addiction” are older than the modern day Internet.
I spent the Summers of 1986-88 in New York City where I had a front row view of some pretty intense tabloid wars that focused on how one paper could out-sensationalize the other with headlines (even if the stories didn’t live up to their covers). The headline shown above didn’t proceed by time in New York by that much and it was considered at the time the greatest tabloid headline ever written (and still might be). I found something inherently attractive in the dark side of sensationalism that laid dormant in my psyche for a while after my time in New York ended, but never went away entirely.
Social media didn’t exist when this story broke. Apparently, the media was reluctant to report the story initially and once it was reported, it was reported in a very understated, non-sensational way…but once it hit the news, the story absolutely exploded online without any social media to aide it. I’m pretty sure that “horse sex” was the first truly viral “Weird News” story and the influential media folks saw its extraordinary impact and tried to use previously unreportable news as a vehicle for selling ad inventory.
With the rise of social media, people learned pretty quickly that “Weird News” drew readers and these readers weren’t limited to the local area where the news occured. News organizations with a Worldwide Focus began cull the weirdest and most unusual stories they could find online and create communities that catered to people (like me) who are addicted to the stuff. With Google, anyone unfortunate enough to be featured in a “Weird News” story will likely be branded with the stigma from that story forever.
Of course, people’s misfortunes can be immensely entertaining…