The Loch Ness Monster Media Test

It’s an increasing problem for media practitioners: how do we tell the difference between new technologies/brands/products/platforms that  are short-term fads, and those that will establish themselves as long-term staples of our lifestyles and cultures.

To help us all do this, I propose the Loch Ness monster test.

On May 2 1933, 82 years ago last week, Alex Campbell, a part time journalist for the Inverness Courier, coined the phrase Loch Ness Monster.

A flurry of stories followed, a first photograph was published in December of that year and the coverage of sightings of the creature has been ebbing and flowing ever since, most recently when Google used Google Street View to allow us all to have a good look for proof of its existence (sort of anyway) this April.


You can of course follow the Loch Ness Monster on Twitter : @realnessie if you wish (s/he must have a waterproof Sony Xperia, an iphone would never last in the largest and second deepest Loch in Scotland).

So how does Nessy help us to sort the technological breakthroughs that will last from the short-term wonders?

I firmly believe that the successful application of technology is dependent on it tapping in to a fundamental human need that does not and has not changed.  Media Week celebrated 30 years last week with the first print edition for years.  It made me reflect that during my career there’s been loads of change, lots of innovation which the consumer has adopted.  Yet their needs, desires, wants and emotions are unchanging.  The very clever tech and media developments feed on them and thrive because of it.

Clearly, the Loch Ness Monster story has survived so long because it too feeds into our needs, desires, wants and emotions. So we can use it as a benchmark to test how well new tech and media will do. My hypothesis is that if we can imagine that any new medium or tech would have been a key player in the spread of Nessy stories if it had been around 82 years ago, then it’s probably going to thrive and survive.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s take one example of a medium that has established itself at the heart of many of our lives. According to my theory, therefore, it should pass the Nessy test. And it doesn’t take more than a moment to realize that it does – with flying colours.

Twitter of course taps into our enormous human drive to show each other what we have found that we found interesting and to share our humour, our disappointments and our delight with our connections.


Nessie news has been delighting us since the 1930s.  I can clearly remember as a child the excitement in the mid-1970s when a lifesizemodel of a seductive female Nessie (with giant feminine eyelashes obviously made to flutter) was launched into the Loch with the intention of luring the monster to the surface.


82 years ago or now news of a genuine Nessie sighting would spread like wildfire across Twitter.


Does the fact that no very recent pictures of Nessie or the Abominable Snowman or Big Foot have reached my Twitter feed mean that I should stop believing ?  Does the instant nature of communication about “What’s happening” take the longevity and the magic out of the Cryptids ?

Not in the slightest.  Keep checking – any day now – don’t miss it.



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