Tag Archives: Newspapers

The Great Ad Hack

great-hack-netflix-1564144457The other evening, I watched the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack.” It chronicles how big tech is taking our data, that we freely give away online, by both making money with our information and manipulating us.

The documentary makes one realize there’s a lot for us to be worried about.

 

Data Privacy

In an internet connected world, do we have any secrets? Everything about us is being stored, as we share our information via social networks, our credit card companies, our banks, our medical services – just about everyone we interact with online.

During the course of the documentary, professor David Carroll tries to see his data points as collected by Cambridge Analytica. Spoiler Alert: Professor Carroll wins a lengthy court case to obtain his data points. Cambridge Analytica never produces them but instead paid a fine and plead guilty for failing to do so. Not producing the data points was more important than revealing what they knew about Professor Carroll and giving the world an inside look at what they know about each of us.

Now Cambridge Analytica is liquidating to prevent anyone from ever seeing the data points they collected on anyone.

Our data privacy has always been important, but we’ve traded our privacy for speed and convenience in our internet connected world. The documentary points out that collecting and using our data points is a trillion dollar business that last year saw data surpass oil in value, making data the most valuable asset on earth.

The Persuadables

What Cambridge Analytica did was target people whose minds they felt they could change for the purposes of winning elections for their clients. In the military, such a tool is called Black Ops or False Flag tactics. Its psychological warfare used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the user’s objectives.

Cambridge Analytica knew they didn’t need to change everyone’s mind, just a critical mass of people to achieve their client’s objectives.

Why did they do it? They wanted to make money, lots and lots and lots of money.

Advertising is Propaganda

The advertising “mad men” of Madison Avenue came from the propaganda operations of the United States military during World War Two. They took what they learned and applied it to selling cars, refrigerators, homes, soap etc. Great advertising seeks to persuade the reader, listener or viewer to buy a product or use a service.

Is it any surprise to anyone that as social media was born, these same methods would be applied to this platform, only on a level that was not possible through traditional media?

“These platforms that were created to connect us are now being weaponized,” says Carole Cadwalladr, investigative reporter for The Observer newspaper. “It’s impossible to know what is what, because nothing is as it seems,” she adds.

Tech Giants Crush Ad Market

Sara Fischer writes in Axios that the big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon are consuming more advertising revenue than most other ad supported media combined. The reason? They have our data points and know how to effectively use them to get us to do what they want. You can read Sara’s full article HERE.

The eMarketer and Zenith Media data as graphed by Axios Visuals really shows where things are headed. (see below)

Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 3.36.05 PM

Can Traditional Media Win?

The playing field today is so unlevel, it begs the question, if traditional media – newspapers, magazines, radio, television – can even have a fighting chance to win advertising dollars.

As a consumer, do you think you stand a chance to not be influenced by the tech giants when they are using your own information against you?

I encourage you to go deeper in this subject by both watching the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” and reading Sara Fischer’s column “Tech Giants Still Crush the Ad Market Despite Looming Threats.”

Then I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog article.

The future of our world is being shaped by the lack of data privacy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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The Post-Fact Society

68P.T. Barnum, among many others, is credited with saying: “I don’t care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!”

Barnum knew it wasn’t important what people said about him as long as they were talking about him. Only the noise level about Barnum mattered.

When I saw this chart from The DataFace measuring the newspaper media coverage of the two presidential candidates, it was eye opening.  68a It mattered little that most of that coverage was negative. What mattered was they spelled “Trump” correctly.

Fake News

Once upon a time, news came from journalists who worked for newspapers, radio and television stations.

Then along came the iPhone and social media.

Now the same device that could receive text, voice, pictures and video could produce it too.

Social media platforms provided mass distribution without a filter (aka an editor).

This provided the perfect storm for the production of fake news. A cottage industry in some parts of the world, some American citizens soon learned that producing internet stories that would get lots of clicks could be profitable.

Radio & Fake News

Even syndicated radio host Sean Hannity got snared in the volume of fake news being generated and had to apologize for using fake news stories to attack Obama.

Ad Supported Media Fight for Survival

In an effort to make a little coin, trusted media sources began accepting advertising that would lead their readers, listeners, viewers to unaffiliated sources that would serve up this fake news. In so doing, they inadvertently now wore the stink of the fake news creators. The public quickly could not discern the researched and sourced news from the made-up variety.

One PM Central Standard Time

Radio and television journalism didn’t always operate this way. PBS produced an excellent documentary about the coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The program was called “One PM Central Standard Time” and it covered how “the most trusted man in America” Walter Cronkite waited until Kennedy’s death was confirmed by  multiple sources before going live with the news to the nation over the CBS radio and television networks.

The Being First Obsession

Things changed when things started being published digitally. In this world, advertising paid based on clicks. Quantity beat quality. Sensational beat facts. Going viral meant big money to these new media folks. Plus the concept of “native advertising” means that advertising copy is presented to look like editorial.

All of these little changes contributed to consumers becoming less and less able to tell real news from what was fake news. Which has led to many not believing anything today’s media tells them.

And that’s a very sad state of affairs for journalism.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
–Thomas Jefferson

21st Century Business Model Challenge

Starting with newspapers, then radio, then TV then digital, the business model has been one of ad supported media. The model is broken.

Disruption first destroys the old ways of doing things before the new ways are discovered and take root. We are living in that destruction period of disruption.

Our challenge lies in building a business model that will support solid journalism, quality entertainment and community service.

What others have shown us is that in a 21st Century world it will take a collaborative effort from people from all over the world to help build the new way.

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Informed or Just Amused?

61This is not a blog about politics. It’s a blog to mentor people about media.

One of the courses I teach at the university is about the processes and effects of mediated communication. I feel this is an important course for students who will become future radio and television journalists. Journalism is a critical component of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson on Newspapers

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.”

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third President felt that newspapers were that important to our democracy.

Warning: Long-term TV Exposure Could Be Hazardous to Your Reality

Researchers Morgan, Shanahan, Signorielli said their research found that long-term exposure to television tends to cultivate the image of a relatively mean and dangerous world. This area of media research is called “Cultivation.”

People have long feared powerful and harmful media effects, especially on children.

National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence

The 1960s were tumultuous times. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. His accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed on live TV by Jack Ruby. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis on the balcony of his hotel and Bobby Kennedy, President’s Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated at a political rally in California. This is why President Lyndon Johnson formed the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence to conduct the first study on the effects of mediated violence on TV.

Cultivation Effect

George Gerbner, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and later Temple University, developed his “cultivation theory” to explain the effects television was having on heavy viewers. His theory says that people who watch a lot of TV tend to develop or cultivate views of the world similar to what they see on television, generally a “mean” world filled with crime and violence.

TV Violence

In a given week of TV, more than half of all leading characters on television are involved in some kind of violent act. Heavy viewers see more than 50% of the stars in their favorite shows engaged in some kind of violent activity. But what’s the reality?

Violent crime in America is at 30-year lows. However Americans’ concern for violent crime is at a 15-year high. In fact 7 out 10 Americans said crime was rising in America. Gun sales have surged 40% this year and are on track for another record breaking year.

Can you see how television is cultivating its viewers and skewing their reality of the world around them?

Social Construction of Reality

Research shows that heavy viewers of television tend to cultivate the same distorted view of the real world as the one they see on TV. They over-estimate the amount of crime on their streets, become more fearful and seek out ways to protect themselves from this perceived violence. Resonance with TV’s dramatic stories occurs when real world events occur that reinforce the fictional world of television.

Reality TV

Network television’s corporate leaders are always striving to produce programs that will garner the most eyeballs watching them for the least amount of money to produce them. Why not, its good business and stakeholders reward a great financial performance by TV executives.

Reality TV shows were a dream come true. Production costs were low and audience viewing levels were high. The only real problem with reality television is it’s not reality; it’s faux reality.

Reality TV Stars

This new form of prime time programming would produce new stars. Jersey Shore produced Snooki to the world. Seaside Heights might compare that televised devastation to Hurricane Sandy in terms of the damage caused to this wonderful ocean resort community.

The Apprentice would produce a New York billionaire as its star.

Donald Trump

Between the original Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump would command prime time television on NBC for 14 seasons. For some voters in this 2016 Presidential election, that’s almost their entire life. For heavy TV viewers, their reality of Trump has been formed from this television program. Their social construction of reality of Trump has been formed by up to 14 years of faux reality.

24-Hour News vs. ESPN

The advent of 24-hour news channels created an insatiable appetite for content. To keep viewers tuned in, the once rarely seen “Breaking News” slide now is exploding on people’s HDTV screens out of every commercial break.

The coverage of politics is almost indistinguishable from the way ESPN covers sports. Many of the descriptors used come directly from the lingo of play-by-play announcers.

TV The Great Storyteller

Television is the great storyteller of our time. Much in the way researchers have measured the impact TV has had on people’s view of crime versus reality, should we now be concerned about people’s view of our politics in much the same way?

Talk Radio

Radio also has a toe in these waters. Talk radio, after the repeal of The Fairness Doctrine, took off. Rush Limbaugh was the first – and still reported to be the biggest – benefactor of this new kind of talk radio.

Radio operators, like television operators, also look for programming that will produce the largest audience for the least amount of dollars to produce. Talk radio was incredibly successful for accomplishing this.

Social Media

The last election showed the power of social media in terms of influencing voter opinion during the Presidential election in 2012. This election cycle appears to be reaching a new apex for social media’s influence.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Professor Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was published in 1985. Postman passed away in October 2003. His book looked at whether the future would be more like George Orwell had predicted in “1984” or more like Aldous Huxley predicted in his book “Brave New World.”

Orwell predicted that a “big brother” government would control the world and Huxley felt that entertainment would totally distract us from what was really going on with our world.

This book is as relevant today as when it was published, maybe even more so, as many of the predictions made are now on internet steroids.

Television and social media have replaced the written word. Mass media continues to move in the direction of entertainment which challenges it to share serious ideas. One candidate’s coughing fit obscures serious talking points delivered later to an audience in the room but not to the audience on television. Another candidate captures TV coverage by early morning “tweet storms.” The casualty is serious issues get no air time, complex issues are bumped for superficial ones. News we need to know is replaced by news that entertains.

ABC – NBC – CBS

For the past seven years, my students have done a comparative analysis of the three major evening newscasts to study their “agenda setting” for America’s news viewers. The general conclusion by my students is that none of them give you everything you need to know to be an informed citizen in a democracy.

What I’ve witnessed over the time I’ve been doing this exercise with my students is how totally entertainment oriented all three of them have become.

Saturday Night Live

The new season of SNL opened on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Alec Baldwin was cast in the role of Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon was cast in the role of Hillary Clinton. Based on the reviews of what every news channel was calling “Must See TV” McKinnon won the night by putting Ms. Clinton in a positive light and Baldwin turned Mr. Trump into a pathetic caricature of “@realDonaldTrump”.

McKinnon’s line probably said it best; when as Ms. Clinton she said “I think I’m going to be President.”

If what researchers have learned about television and the study of its influence on people’s perception of violence carries over to people’s candidate voting preferences, then SNL may have just influenced the outcome of the 2016 United States Presidential election.

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The Outlook for Radio vs. Print

John Cassaday retired. For a quarter of a century he had an up-close and personal view of the communications revolution. For sixteen years he was the CEO of Corus Entertainment, a leading Canadian media company. When he stepped down from that position in March of this year, he was asked to reflect on the broadcasting industry. I was most interested in his thoughts about the outlook for radio.

What’s the outlook for radio?

Cassaday was asked that question by The Globe and Mail. He responded:

“Radio is probably the most sustainable traditional medium. It’s becoming the only truly local advertising opportunity.”

The thing that separates chronically positive people from everyone else is that while they know everyone has their problems – it’s a part of life – it’s that they keep in perspective, that adversity brings growth. But what happens if your medium is headed for a cliff?

What’s the outlook for print?

Print aka newspaper revenue was over a $65-Billion (adjusted for inflation) behemoth as the world approached 2000. The current trend line has it eroding to less than it was in 1950; a little over $17-Billion. But it’s worse than that.

NYU professor Clay Shirky sees print revenue headed for a cliff.  One of the tipping points will arrive when the cost of printing the paper is more than the advertising dollars/subscriptions that support its printing. But that’s still not the worst of it.

Shirky believes there’s another even more important tipping point that will occur before the one I just mentioned. That’s the one concerning the psychological threshold for the advertiser. The point where the amount of papers printed and distributed no longer justifies the investment in this form of advertising. How attractive will print advertising be when it no longer delivers the massive audience that an advertiser desires? That’s the point when revenues go from bleeding to hemorrhage.

One of the suggestions Shirky puts forward for newspaper owners is to get their best customers to think about getting the paper more as membership than a subscription.

The NPR Membership Concept

The concept of having people so loyal, so dedicated to the content you create that they want to be part of the family is the powerful concept that has been used by public radio stations to raise the necessary funds they need to operate. But let’s be clear, NPR has made a major investment in content creation and serving it up on any platform a member desires.

Much as HBO used to say “It’s not TV, its HBO,” NPR could just as easily proclaim “It’s not radio, its NPR.” And if you think that’s absurd, more than one focus group has shown that people, who say they don’t listen to radio any more, still listen to their local NPR radio station and support it through membership.

The iPad was never going to save newspapers

Shirky says you can add the iPad saving newspapers to the long list of cruel jokes Steve Jobs played on the media industry. Jobs was always about doing what was right for Apple. How do you think Apple became the most valuable company in the world?

Google+ is not Facebook

Even media companies that we think have all the answers, don’t.   Google+ was a bad Facebook. Instead of trying to figure out a new niche that wasn’t being served and doing an incredible job, Google created Google+. The world wasn’t asking for another Facebook. This isn’t all that different than HD Radio. The world wasn’t asking for another type of FM radio either. The digital difference for the radio consumer has never been seen as a “must have.”

Shared interests is the new local

It’s clear that while geography used to be the only thing that defined what it meant to be “local,” going forward local is going to come to mean people who share similar interests. To a substantial portion of the population, where they live may indeed be the very interest they share. But radio operators will need to clearly identify and serve those interests if they are to survive and thrive. Leverage the opportunity to deliver desired content to your “members” or someone else will.

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