Mainstream Media’s Slow Meltdown

I was struck by an article in today’s online edition of Ad Age about the Republican field’s dissatisfaction with CNBC’s mishandling of their recent debate. The author, Ad Age’s “media guy” Simon Dumenco, notes that outsider candidates Trump and Carson feel it’s time to tell the networks how things will be run, rather than the other way around. And if the networks are not amenable, then go with alternative media instead. Then networks can either arrange to air the streamed content or not. Per Dumenco, Trump and Carson don’t really much care either way.

As Dumenco sees it, these outsider candidates are such hot content creators in their own way, they see the nets as having little to offer. He cites the ongoing loss of newspaper subscribers, to which I would add the ongoing erosion in cable subscribers and the long-term ratings decline for the nets as evidence that America today gets its news in other ways. From MSNBC and Colbert on the left to Fox News and Breitbart on the right, it is clear that “silent” America is voting with its eyeballs and ears, steering a course away from the pundits and commentators of the past, who are now seen as biased purveyors of pre-packaged points of view.

The right and the left are quite well represented in today’s media bastions.

But while both Democrats and Republicans suffer continuing long-term losses in party affiliation, Independents are on the rise. In January of this year, Gallup reported that a new record of 43% of Americans now identify as independents. Democrats were at 30% (down from 31 the prior year), Republicans at 26% (up from 25).

So where are the TRULY mainstream media, the media in the center of things? This looks to me like a vastly underserved market, ripe for some entrepreneurial startup activity that has deep pockets. We need a “Central Broadcasting Company.”

Here’s the link for the Ad Age article:

Research Says Brands Still Matter

Ad Age reports in its September 28th online edition that the inherent importance of brands may be on the decline, but that brands still matter overall.


Ogilvy & Mather’s study points out that how much they matter is correlated with what country you’re talking about. “The consumer…wants marketing that helps. And one thing that stood out in the research is that customer service, exclusive offers and deals and charitable giving impress consumers far more than celebrity tie-ins and guerilla advertising” (para. 7). Research respondents also said that Coke is an expert on happiness!

Not long ago advertising pros used to say that rational reasons for purchase are not enough, that an emotional “hook” is essential to attract customers. Perhaps emotion is now, in fact, dominant and has become the driving force behind purchase decisions for consumers.

The role of media in American political polarization

Here is an excellent article about our country’s political polarization and the media’s role in keeping it going. It’s all about ratings and the human psyche’s apparent need for the adrenaline rush of conflict. It seems we all love to watch a good fight. What’s your take?

Another study of violent video games

Pub Med has announced a new study on the effects of violent video game playing on persons with autism spectrum disorder, a study launched in response to some recent commentary that such game playing is more likely to negatively affect persons with ASD than those without the disorder. However, the authors report in their abstract that results “suggest that societal concerns that exposure to violent games may have a unique effect on adults with autism are not supported by evidence.”

Here is the link:

It has been my contention for some time that violent video games are not causative of antisocial or violent behavior. Such behaviors have other roots, leaving only some measure of correlation (which is not causation) in its place. My view depends much on Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura) and the principal of self-agentic behavior, which is what led Bandura to leave the behaviorist school he originally advocated.

I would like to see someone investigate the possibility that playing violent video games may reinforce bad behavior in those predisposed to antisocial spectrum disorders, and not in those who lack such predispositions. But I’m afraid that experimental studies are likely to run afoul of guidelines for experiments with human subjects, leaving only population studies over time to try and fill the gap.

Any thoughts?

Inland Empire Museum of Art

Public TV station KVCR has produced a very nice three-minute news piece on the Inland Empire Museum of Art (IEMA), for which I have been volunteering some time for PR (including setting up this coverage). Here is the URL for the KVCR “news” website:

The story on IEMA is in the upper right hand corner. Click and watch. Tell me what you think!

The Magic Kingdom makes jobs disappear!

Please read this story from today’s NY Times:

I first became aware of Disney management’s arrogance when I got a direct mail piece advertising their management training program back in the late 1990s. The piece, done during the Eisner era, took the tone of “We are so incredibly hot, wonderful and successful, don’t you wish you could be as cool as we are?” They wrote it like they were Harvard or Stanford, Penn or Wharton…a business school better than any other!

And over the years I’ve seen and heard other stories in the same vein. Their organizational psychology is one of multiple personality disorder. There’s Dr. Jekyll, the warm and wonderful creator of Pixar films and Disney characters. Then there’s Mr. Hyde, the miserable, penny-pinching Scrooge out to screw everyone they can for a buck.

How do you like their new park visitor pricing scheme? As much as I genuinely admire Ed Catmull and his team for their apparent grasp and successful practice of media psychology concepts, I abhor the fact that he’s tied up with these bastards. So I won’t go see any more Pixar films. I won’t visit the parks anymore. I won’t watch ABC TV. I intend to boycott any and all things Disney, as best I can. I ask you to join me.

Tablets and Smartphones–the New Babysitters?

Time magazine ran an article reporting on a recent study showing that children under the age of two have used smartphones and tablets. As the article notes, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes exposing infants under the age of two to any mediated content, a position it first took many years ago as parents starting parking their kids in front of TV sets to keep them occupied.

As Reeves and Nass point out in their book, The Media Equation, we all–not just children–interpret media characters as if they were people. Even to an adult, our response to Donald Duck is as real as if it were your next door neighbor. Especially worth noting, however, is that children that young have not formed the cognitive ability to judge the content they are exposed to, they just soak it up.

This then has the capability to affect cognition later in life, inasmuch as memory is associative and to the degree that a present stimulus brings to mind–consciously or unconsciously–some earlier, infantile media experience accepted at full face value, this puts one at a rational disadvantage in terms of sorting out fact and fiction.

Here’s the link:

Will we some day see the “Infantile Smartphone Usage Defense” in some criminal trial to come?


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