A Whole New Meaning to a ‘Case of the Mondays’

“Blue Mondays” are a sham but Porn Mondays are real.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Lucia Graves
Jan. 13, 2014, 10:34 a.m.

Last week, if you were read­ing the apo­ca­lyptic re­port­ing on the so-called po­lar vor­tex, thun­der­snow, and gen­er­al end times in Amer­ica, you prob­ably happened upon a story or two about “Blue Monday,” sup­posedly the most de­press­ing day of the year.

“You’ve fin­ished all the mince pies, the weath­er is ter­rible, Christ­mas ended up be­ing hor­ribly ex­pens­ive and most of us are back to the daily grind,” wrote Sam Webb in the Daily Mail. “So it wouldn’t come as a sur­prise if you star­ted to feel down in the dumps.” There is even a for­mula for Blue Monday (where “w” is weath­er, “d” is debt, “T” is time since Christ­mas, “Q” is time since fail­ing on New Year’s res­ol­u­tions, “M” is mo­tiv­a­tion­al levels, and “Na” is the feel­ing of a need to take ac­tion).

The story was writ­ten up in dozens of pub­lic­a­tions, an oc­cur­rence that’s be­come something of an an­nu­al tra­di­tion since the for­mula was first made up in 2005. It was pushed in a pub­li­city cam­paign by Sky Travel, an ef­fort to get their brand in­to the me­dia in Janu­ary, when people are most likely to start think­ing about book­ing their va­ca­tions for the year.

Ben Gol­dacre, who writes the blog Bad Sci­ence, has been cru­sad­ing against the faux for­mula for years, but he hasn’t quite man­aged to nix the per­en­ni­al cov­er­age. One of the reas­ons, as he told NPR‘s “On The Me­dia” re­cently, is be­cause the ed­it­ors in charge of most news­rooms don’t know the first thing about sci­ence. “They tend to have a good un­der­stand­ing of polit­ics, eco­nom­ics, his­tory, maybe sports,” he said, “but they don’t feel sci­ence in their belly, they have no in­terest in it, and so these sort of silly stor­ies are very easy for PR com­pan­ies to get in­to the me­dia.”

Sky Travel‘s find­ings have been widely con­tra­dicted. One study in Ontario found peaks of sui­cide in spring and au­tumn. A study in Aus­tralia re­por­ted sui­cides are highest in early sum­mer. But that won’t stop re­port­ers from writ­ing up the nar­rat­ive every time Janu­ary rolls around.

The propensity of the me­dia to base a nar­rat­ive on such evid­ence is something An­drew Re­vkin, who writes the Dot Earth blog for the New York Times, has termed “single-study syn­drome;” we saw it again last week with the cov­er­age of “Porn Monday,” sup­posedly the day of the week when people are most likely to look at porn — at least on the site Pornhub.com.

As Will Oremus noted in Slate, the site has done an in­geni­ous job of par­lay­ing its in­tern­al traffic stats in­to “an on­go­ing orgy of main­stream pub­li­city.” A quick Google news search re­veals half a dozen stor­ies about who’s watch­ing porn and why, of­ten with some peg to a ma­jor news event.

A post in The Guard­i­an dis­cusses porn trends in the United King­dom while a post in Poli­cyM­ic fo­cused on “5 Sur­pris­ing Trends in Amer­ic­ans’ Porn Habits.” A story in The Wash­ing­ton Post ob­served that traffic on Pornhub spiked on Jan. 7 and 8, at the height of last week’s po­lar vor­tex. All this simply be­cause Pornhub re­por­ted that on its blog “Pornhub In­sights.”

The site is well aware that its in­tern­al traffic data is con­tent gold for click-savvy journ­al­ists and there’s no doubt that, like the push­ers of Blue Monday, the com­pany is us­ing the in­form­a­tion as a way to get free pub­li­city.

And yet … the pur­vey­ors of Porn Monday have clear journ­al­ist­ic-high ground: the data, while trivi­al and prob­ably un­deserving of cov­er­age, is ac­cur­ate.

What We're Following See More »
McMullin Leads in New Utah Poll
2 hours ago

Evan McMul­lin came out on top in a Emer­son Col­lege poll of Utah with 31% of the vote. Donald Trump came in second with 27%, while Hillary Clin­ton took third with 24%. Gary John­son re­ceived 5% of the vote in the sur­vey.

Quinnipiac Has Clinton Up by 7
2 hours ago

A new Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll finds Hillary Clin­ton lead­ing Donald Trump by seven percentage points, 47%-40%. Trump’s “lead among men and white voters all but” van­ished from the uni­versity’s early Oc­to­ber poll. A new PPRI/Brook­ings sur­vey shows a much bigger lead, with Clinton up 51%-36%. And an IBD/TIPP poll leans the other way, showing a vir­tu­al dead heat, with Trump tak­ing 41% of the vote to Clin­ton’s 40% in a four-way match­up.

Trump: I’ll Accept the Results “If I Win”
3 hours ago
Duterte Throws His Lot in with China
6 hours ago

During a state visit to China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte "declared an end to his country’s strategic alignment with the United States and pledged cooperation with Beijing." Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he's "realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world—China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Hatch Considering 2018 Re-election Run
7 hours ago

Reports say that Orrin Hatch, who in 2012 declared that he would retire at the end of his term, is considering going back on that pledge to run for an eighth term. Hatch, who is the longest serving Republican in the Senate, is unlikely to make any official declaration until after this election cycle is completed.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.