Sunday, May 07, 2006

Traditional Media? Don't Even Bother...

It's a funny thing: as conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats rant and posture about the "traditional" or "mainstream" media and its supposed "liberal" or "corporate" biases, we've failed to take into account a far more important point: The traditional media as we know it is dying.  Literally.

And it's not just newspapers that aren't getting readership anymore: the TV networks are faring just as poorly.

According to Variety Online (which I got to via Drudge, unfortunately):

The major nightly newscasts and newspapers continue to grapple with the need to "get younger," from the "CBS Evening News' " planned makeover and the obscene drift of primetime magazines in television to shorter stories and increased page one "pop culture" coverage in top dailies. Beyond reaching the young adults advertisers covet, the concern is that the next generation needs to develop the news-consuming habit.

Seldom mentioned, however, is the fact that cable news is equally geriatric. Indeed, Fox News Channel and CNN are two of only three leading basic networks (the other being the Hallmark Channel) whose median viewer age is over 60. Headline News rings in next at 59.9, and MSNBC is still on the rickety side at 57.

Let that sink in for a bit.  The median age of Fox News and CNN watchers is over 60 years old.  What this means, statistically, is that the grim reaper is taking away more news-watchers every day than these networks are picking up.

As the Variety article goes on to point out, these demographic realities are forcing two convergent phenomena: the need to attempt to attract a younger audience, at the same time as these networks run story after story about how "kids these days" are sending the world to hell in a handbasket.

In that context, Fox and CNN's content sounds more like retirement-home residents lamenting what's wrong with kids today than catering to their audience. It also proffers a skewed vision of teens and young adults, whom the network newsmags also present as being either constantly threatened by Internet miscreants (see "Dateline's" "To Catch a Predator" series) or determined to kill themselves (witness "20/20's" "binge-drinking coeds" expose).

At this point, Republican/Democrat/Conservative/Liberal attempts to sway the traditional media to focus coverage more attuned to their particular slant (though I would definitely call our slant more reality-based than theirs) is somewhat akin to demanding greater and greater pieces of an increasingly shrinking pie.

And there's another lesson to be learned from this as well: the voters we are attempting to sway by influencing the traditional media are among the least swayable voters out there: the aged who are the primary watchers of these shows are far less likely to change their political party affiliation than are the younger voters who do NOT watch cable news or read the newspaper.

Nobody's paying any attention to the newscasters anymore--least of all the voters that are going to carry us to Democratic majorities over the next twenty years.

The voters we need aren't even tuning in to Chris Matthews.  They aren't even reading Judith Miller.

The voters we need are on MySpace.  The voters we need are too busy working 12 hour days to pay off their school loans from 6 years ago to even pay even attention to be able to find Iraq on a map.  The voters we need aren't even tuned in to the crap we are constantly complaining about.


The voters we need are of two kinds: a) the ones who aren't even engaged in the process, and don't feel like they can make a difference, and are too busy (or too apathetic) to learn; and b) the ones who are using community-building tools like DailyKos, and a host of other blogs to give them the news they want: news already and unabashedly tailored and slanted to their predisposed way of thinking.

And we're not going to get to them by slamming the latest drivel to come out of a dying, disintegrating and geriatric traditional media.

We're going to get to them by reaching out in non-traditional ways--just like we've done here at DailyKos.  We're going to get to them by creating online communities--and the more the merrier, each with their own separate subslants--from Democratic Underground to MyLeftWing to DailyKos.  We're going to get to them by reaching out with liberal talk radio.  We're going to get to them by creating our own news outlets, and promoting those outlets in the communities, real and virtual, in which these people actually live.


And in the end, we are going to win.  We are going to win because we are powered by truth--and by the fact that we have communities of hundreds of thousands of people working constantly to uncover that truth and expose the lies.

We are going to win because, in a world where traditional, single-news sources are dying, the stronger and the more persuasive the activist community, the better.  And we are bigger and stronger.

Just keep up the good work, folks.  Keep building.

Because the "traditional" media is taking care of destroying itself just fine--and the winners of the debate will the ones who best picked up the ashes and replaced them.


Blogger chicago dyke said...

this is an excellent essay and i'm going to post it at my blog, corrente. thank you.

6:26 AM  
Blogger dday said...

good work, sir. And good meeting you on Saturday.

2:37 PM  
Blogger thereisnospoon said...

thanks folks

3:33 PM  

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