FEATURED SCMP: Reading lighter news doesn’t make you a bad person – it just means you’re human

It’s a very strange time to be doing what we do. At the time of writing this, the number of coronavirus cases worldwide has just passed the 20 million mark, and the top stories on STYLE’s page include which royals have married in upcycled wedding dresses and, perhaps more jarringly, how the biggest stars in the K-drama industry are spending their vast fortunes.

Laughing and angry face emojis on our Facebook posts are no stranger to us, and it is understandable and unsurprising that those looking for hard news would be outraged at our seemingly tone-deaf publication of luxury content.

What is surprising, however, is that last month (July 2020) marked STYLE’s highest ever traffic performance.

This was no one-off: our MAUs (monthly active users), MPVs (monthly page views), and social media followers have been climbing exponentially over the past year.

How did this happen?
Since the launch of its website in September 2016, STYLE has been the luxury portal for the South China Morning Post. We have shifted strategies over the years, but our directive has always been to offer our readers access and insight into a world of privilege, exclusivity and dreams.

While we’ve fine-tuned our strategic approach, using data analytics to produce increasingly targeted stories that provide our readers with exactly the kind of luxury content they want, there is one major factor that accounts for our surge in numbers: you.

The global impact of Covid-19 has meant that media publications everywhere, in every language, have been pumping out essential information on the virus. My own admirable colleagues at the SCMP have been working tirelessly to update the statistics and keep the public armed with the latest on the situation.

However, as I’ve mentioned in articles on other platforms, most of us need a balance of hard and soft news, and for some of us, there will always be a demand for the escape and inspiration that luxury offers.

The research supports this
In a study conducted in June by Agility Research & Strategy, a research and consulting company in Asia, the statistics show that luxury has increasingly become a way for people to reward themselves, with 53 per cent of respondents attributing this as the main reason they purchase luxury services or goods, compared with 39 per cent pre-pandemic.

People are spending more on fine dining and home electronics, likely because they’re sick of their home cooking and going stir crazy staring at their four walls. Travel spending has predictably declined, but the drop from 22 per cent to 18 per cent was not as much as one would expect, as people are scratching their globetrotting itch by indulging in domestic staycations.

Tl;dr: what does this mean?
In a nutshell, this means we’re human, that you and I are normal for wanting to see some light in the darkness, for seeking beauty and happier things even amid the gloom.

We’re not wrong for wanting to lighten our load at the end of the day, and we don’t have to feel guilty for wanting to break the stream of heavy news by finding out how Chris Hemsworth maintains his admirable physique while on lockdown. Just as we seek to keep ourselves informed of the global health and economic situation, so do we endeavour to nurture our mental health with a balance of lighter, more aspirational news.

This is what makes us human, and as long as you want to seek some joy in your everyday life, we are here to provide optimism and breathing space – a hopeful counterpoint to the darker side of our new normal.

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