Why Pictures of Pretty Ladies Go Viral

by Benjamin Domenech on 1:21 pm August 17, 2010

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Elizabeth Dwoskin writes at CJR on “an experience that is a dream for many journalists” — when “a story I wrote went viral”:

The story, which ran on the cover of the Village Voice, where I am a staff writer, was about a gorgeous woman, a low-level banker named Debrahlee Lorenzana. She was fired from Citibank, allegedly after her bosses found her body to be so distracting that they couldn’t concentrate on work. The story was accompanied by a set of photos—some were taken in her lawyer’s office and featured Debrahlee in her work attire, which was largely appropriate, and the rest were from our photo shoot, in which she posed sexily in her Saturday night get-ups.

While speaking at a conference in 2006, I predicted: “In the future, every popular news story will be accompanied by pictures of boobs.” As online news supplants offline, outlets become even more mindful of the difference between stories that get clicks and stories that don’t — you can measure eyeballs exactly:

I recently published another cover story. I’m proud of the story—about the commissioner of the state’s juvenile justice agency and her battle with a powerful union. It’s been just over a week, and every day a number of thoughtful comments pop up on our Web page—we’re up to about thirty. After Lorenzana, that feels really slow. I might have to begrudgingly accept that it could be that way for a while. I also might just have to find another hot banker. There’s nothing so motivating as being in the spotlight.

Online sources are already better at this than old media (with the exception of the Brit tabloids), so I’ll amend my prediction: in the future, What Will Tyler Durden Do will own the New York Times.

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