I am an unashamed and unabashed fan of the Eurovision Song Contest. For those not in the know, it's an annual competition that brings European nations together in the spirit of song.
The comp is 54 years old this year and is Europe's favourite TV show with millions of viewers every year. Long before 1800 numbers, internet polling and mobile phone voting, Eurovision was deciding the best song for the year by collating millions of votes from countries across the continent as an initiative of public broadcasters.
Abba, Bucks Fizz, and the Italian classic Volare were all Eurovision winners. (And let's face it, anything that caused Abba to be invented cannot be bad). It's the place where River Dancing was born, and the comp has been a showcase to stars including Cliff Richard, Olivia Newton John and countless others as well as a host of wonderful nobodies singing in obscure languages and versions of national dress.
The songs are frequently a conglomoration of cheese, sacchrine-sweetness and a driving disco beat. To quote an Australian colloquialism, Eurovision is downright daggy. But it's enormous fun, and kinda cool that every year, countries across Europe put aside their differences and dramas and get up on stage, usually in all-white costumes, a wind machine and pyrotechnics to sing their hearts out with a catchy verse-chorus-coda combination that even if it's in a language no-one understands, has everyone tapping their feet.
Newspapers could learn from Eurovision.
1. You won't win if you play it safe
Every year, Eurovision produces songs that are cookie-cutter templates of songs that have gone on for years before. Iceland, Ireland and Norway were all well tipped to be contenders for the big prize. Their familiar tunes and hackneyed song writing saw them coming in 19, 20 and 23. The UK entry this year was a Stock & Waterman (of the former trio Stock Aitken and Waterman who made Kylie Minogue famous). Here's the thing. Kylie was great with SAW and in the 1980s. The UK, not surprisingly, came last. The song was dated rubbish.
2. Believe in something bigger
It doesn't matter that it's a cheese fest and people tease you because you support it. That's part of the fun but people believe in Eurovision and its vision in big numbers and are prepared to put energy into it. Eurovision is a living example every year that it does not pay to be too cynical.
3. Invite others in
The idea of the former Eastern block nations taking part in Eurovision was a dream back in 1954. This year, Azerbaijan and Romania were in the top five, and Turkey came second (they won a couple of years ago). They have influenced the direction and musical style of the competition and it's much richer for it.
4. Let the crowd be right
Now that they've done away (mostly) with block voting, Eurovision is starting to become an interesting tasting plate of modern European pop. The pundits — showing they were all old blokes over 45 — had the big money on countries such as Iceland, Ireland, Norway and Denmark with their middle of the road mainstream western hits.
But the winner was Germany's Lena with her quirky Satellite — a touch of Missy Higgins, Sia and Sarah Blasko while Belgium's Me & My Guitar had hallmarks of Jack Johnson. Azerbaijan was a Beyonce-meets-Evanescence influence and Turkey's entry was, well, a Turkish version of Lincoln Park (I am reliably informed by my 10-year-old son), albeit with a weird robot that chopped off her own arm as part of the theatrics.
If none of these related bands mean anything to you, think hard about whether you should be deciding your company's strategy on how to attract young audiences — in print or online.
My sources — and they would all be kids under 17 with mobile phones and Facebook accounts — tell me that the winners this year are very much in line with what “everyone” nowdays is listening to (for “everyone” read, “the cool kids, not you, Mum, and especially not Dad”)
5. Don't be frightened to change the world
When Abba won Eurovision with Waterloo, they changed the face of pop music. When Italy won with Volare, they changed the songlists of Italian wedding receptions and christenings forever after. Lena's win this year, changed the voodoo that “no-one ever votes for Germany.” Belgium's entry countered stereotypes that the little nation is boring. Amazing things can happen.
There are probably more lessons out there that Eurovision can teach newspapers — blog them below.