Q: Why is there so much coverage of celebrity couples?


Did you witness the earth-shattering news live? NFL football star Travis Kelce, fresh off a Super Bowl victory with the Kansas City Chiefs, had just taken a private jet to Sydney, Australia to see his girlfriend Taylor Swift. She was on a concert tour stop there. And OMG, you’d never guess what happened next. TV camera crews staked out Kelce’s airport arrival in real time. They drum-rolled the whole thing. From the plane’s first appearance in the sky to the tarmac touchdown to Kelce’s emergence, newscasters gawked and speculated about the couple and their relationship and how romantic it was that Trav would fly all that way. According to tabloid news site TMZ, the big shocker was that TRAVIS LOOKED TIRED!

Wait—time out. Flag on the play. Somebody call a referee. Because really, was this news worth livestreaming? Should anybody care about this airplane’s touchdown as much as the Chiefs’ touchdowns?

Welcome to the major-league journalistic sport of covering celebrity romances. From Will Smith and Jada Pinkett’s marital hiccups to Ben Affleck switching up his Jennifers (goodbye Garner, hello again Lopez), love among show-business and athletic glitterati has long been a sure-fire traffic driver in news feeds. But Tay-Tay-‘n-Trav mania seems to be on another level.

One explanation is that their courtship, which went public in September 2023, represents a perfect-storm venn diagram of overlapping hot topics. Swift is the savviest social-media pied piper on the planet. Her Eras Tour and documentary film have set revenue records. She famously dates and dumps guys, so her fanbase goes bonkers with every new boyfriend. Meantime, NFL football is by far the USA’s most popular sport. With clean-cut poster boy Tom Brady retired, the NFL is happy to have Kelce help fill the charisma vacuum. As the New York Times reported in early January 2024, Kelce has a plan to become “as famous as The Rock”. Turns out he’s been working on that since he and his management-team buddies were in college. He wants a bigger playing field: movies, TV shows, comedy guest spots, lucrative ad endorsements. (Retro-news flash: He was already in a short-lived 2016 reality-series dating show called “Catching Kelce.” Nobody paid much attention till Taylor arrived and reporters and fans started picking through Kelce’s past.)

Put all that popularity together and boom—it’s a news-driver-palooza. Chant it with us, cheerleaders: Prominence! Importance! (Of a sort, anyway.) Human interest! Conflict! (Oooh, did you see Kelce at the Super Bowl yelling at coach Andy Reid and bumping into him like a maniac? Should Taylor walk away from that temper? Discuss.) Plus it’s got change (record numbers of young women suddenly watching NFL games, as this Al Jazeera piece notes), unusualness (teen girls and football don’t usually mix), and timeliness (it cross-promotes her concert tour and his NFL career). Magnitude? Off the charts, especially in terms of money and the free-advertising value of all this media coverage. Since the pair connected, Swift’s concert revenues and sales of Chiefs sports apparel have surged, not to mention the local-economy effect caused by every concert-tour stop and every Chiefs game leading to the playoffs. Even a horrific shooting incident at a Kansas City post-Super Bowl celebration—the kind of serious story most people think of as much more relevant than celeb couples—wasn’t enough to derail the love-story coverage for long.

With so many news drivers in play, every news editor and app overseer on the planet is angling to use Kelce-Swift Inc. to grab your attention. No blip seems too small to pursue. (Hey, is that a hickey on Travis Kelce’s neck? Let’s get forensic about it!) Plus, an army of right-wing conspiracy theorists are weighing in with ludicrous outbursts of misinformation and disinformation, claiming the Super Bowl was a fixed game, the Pentagon is using Swift as a psy-op, Swift plans to help steal the 2024 election from Donald Trump, and so on. Sheesh! Is nothing sacred?

There’s seemingly a single larger force, though, at the root of all these drivers. It may just be our innate human longing for connection and love. Since we can now so easily follow celebs online, we start to feel like we know them. That leads to a phenomenon known as parasocial relationships, where people are so invested in celebs it becomes a one-sided obsession. (If you start going Full Taylor, with the same makeup, clothing and hairstyles, or Full Kelce—same goatee and haircut—it might be time to pull back.)

Is all this healthy for society and for journalism? Probably not, but it certainly gets a lot of cash flow going.

So the next time your feed blows up with whoever the golden couple du jour happen to be, remember: It may seem silly, but it’s big news and big business. The web, especially via your smartphone, is engaged in a nonstop arms race for your attention. Given that reality, it’s no wonder one of the go-to tactical weapons is the prurient appeal of lovebirds hooking up. More often than not, hormonal outreach works. As a Swiftie might sing, Look what you made me do!