James Gandolfini, metatag

I horrified a lot of Facebook friends yesterday when I admitted I’d never seen an episode of “The Sopranos.” Until I got Verizon FiOS recently, my access to premium channels was limited; my kids have had dibs on the TV for a couple of decades; and I’m not great at sitting still or scheduling viewing times.

Nevertheless, I know how important the show and its late star, James Gandolfini, were to a vast audience. So now that the news of his death in Italy has broken, I’m waiting for the second wave: the swell of tangential stories that tie the even to everything from technology to automobiles to dining. It’s a mighty act of triangulation, and it’s something every one of us in the content industry has done at one time or another. There’ll be stories about tourism in Rome, sights to see in New Jersey, the 13 best cars in “The Sopranos,” and on and on.

Unseemly? Kind of? Absurd? Often. But it’s an undeniable part of the information cycle in an era when traffic stats drive content creators — and the sponsors behind them — to create current context even if they have to stretch on tip toes to get there.

And in case you didn’t notice: This post itself is a prime example of the technique. I’ve used the tragic death of a beloved actor to score my own points about content and lend it the veneer of relevance. Next, I’ll broadcast this post on social media to get extra traction — all of it without actually knowing much about Mr. Gandolfini or his work.

As Tony Soprano said (according to quotes I Googled for convenience, since I never saw the show): “We’re in a situation where everyone involved knows the stakes and if you are going to accept those stakes, you’ve got to do certain things. It’s business.”

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