If It Bleeds, It Leads


If it bleeds, it leads is an aphorism attributed to the news industry. Basically, it is saying that the general public are more interested in bad news than good news; the worse the news, the more interested the public are. However, from a business perspective, this focus on the negatives can lead to poor business decisions. I am naturally one of those who always sees the cup as half full rather than half empty and this attitude was reinforced by my business mentor who always told me to look for the opportunity that always existed behind every negative headline.


During the covid pandemic, if we were to listen to the media outlets, we would all be convinced that the end of business as we know it was imminent. They are probably right about one thing; business will change in the way that it is done. There will be lots more automation and digitisation, more online business, more working from home, and many other things that clever and innovative people have dreamt up and will dream of to keep their businesses afloat.


What were some of the positives and opportunities that I saw behind the information we were being fed by the media outlets. Take unemployment - The media sources focused on the unemployment rates, which ranged up to 15%, yes this meant that some people and their families were really hurting, and no one likes to see that. But the corollary of that is that 85% of the population are still working and earning money, additionally, their expenses have dropped due to fewer meals out, lower car expenses etc. Thus, they had even more disposable income than usual. Now for the savvy entrepreneur, the challenge becomes how can I use my creativity to get them to spend that disposable income on my business. There were lots of examples of entrepreneurs who saw ways to tap into this such as, hotels that offered day rates for their hotel rooms so that people had secure places to work from so that their families did not distract them. Curbside pick up, virtual art shows, virtual auctions, concerts and many other ideas.


Other indications that the economy was not as bad as it was made out to be was that we had and currently have a hot housing market in both used and new units. New home starts reached an all time high in March 2021 of 335.20 thousand units[1]. Home sales were up 258% over April 2020 in May2021[2]. All this was happening during the third wave of the pandemic. People were still buying houses indicating that not only did they have the money for a down payment (remember the new rules require larger down payments) but also that they felt confident that they could handle the payments on their mortgage. The stock market stayed surprisingly strong; the banks did not have as many losses as they anticipated. A recent presentation by Peter Hall, Chief Economist of Export Development Canada even pointed out that some US Banks were so worried by the amount US Corporations were saving that the banks refused to accept GICs from these companies. All very positive news.


The key message here is: Don’t let the media companies doom and gloom scare you. Rather, if it's bleeding, where is the opportunity. This is not only true during the pandemic, it is always true. Strong business people learn to look behind the headlines to what is really going on. Ask yourself where are the opportunities, how can I turn this situation into an opportunity for my business. Remember that what makes small and medium businesses so resilient is that they can make and act on decisions very quickly. You just have to maintain a positive attitude and be creative.


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[1] Trading Economics, “Canada Housing Stats”, accessed on 21 June 22, 2021, https://tradingeconomics.com/canada/housing-starts [2] Wowa, “Canadian Housing Market News”, accessed on 21 June, 2021, https://wowa.ca/reports/canada-housing-market

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