The new silent majority


There’s a new Silent Majority yet tapped by American Media.  Gets back to the “mass appeal intellect” that is a hole you could fly an Airbus 380 through. American Idol, Fox News, and celebrity worship are of course enormously popular and that’s fine, but it appears EVERYone is attempting to capitalize on that mind set at a time when there are others.  If these three define the state of American media innovation—we are indeed getting eaten by our own lack of vision.

Growing up I recall that Made in America was the stamp of excellence.  Made in Japan was cheap.  Made in China was unthinkable. Made in England was classy but not reliable. NOW, with the exception of a few like Apple–Made in America scares me (though I guess those are made in China too).  The point being that American media is following that same trend.  Stamp of excellence?  More and more a stamp of mediocre.  A trend that can be reversed if enough people care.  Turning around a culture of ‘average is acceptable’ is monumental, but it only takes a few to create a trend in our A.D.D. society.

The problem is in the copiers.  Those that, without REALLY thinking,  assume that American Idol is the definitive state of American media,  and use that show,  or similar programming as a reference point resulting in a very cluttered market of content based on the same creative model.

For a country built on diversity, the incredible one dimensional character of American Media makes no sense in terms of forward vision.  Again, being successful doing it a certain way is fine–but what about when EVERYone does it identically?  EVERYone can’t win.

For example
TV NEWS:  Another Barbie & Ken reading stories,  backed by a fake picture of the skyline,  inane “We’re Here for you” slogans, quadruple action double super Doppler radar,  annoying percussion behind everything,  complete with a big voice,  over-the-top theme music and of course constant mentions of Twitter and Facebook for that modern edge.

MUSIC RADIO:  Stars Wars sound effects and claims of being the best with the most,  complete with claims of musical excellence, continual driving to the web for “more” (more what?),  DJ’s who add very little to the mix and a formula architecture/style based on the label and consultant driven pre Internet era.

REALITY SHOWS:  The SAME format, show after show.  Again, with the big voice, nervous production and often mindless subject matter.

Hey–this stuff CAN work and often does, at least for the originators. But on a 1-10 scale, if 1 is dumb and 10 is elite, most everything seems either in the 1-4  junk culture zone or the 9-10 C-Span zone.

The modern opportunity is in the middle, where thinking and adventure meets commercial and successful in both execution and goals.

At my last company I noticed a tendency for print to perceive themselves as holy protectors of the Journalistic temple while TV prided itself in the Herb Tarlick zone. Both are OK and part of life…but again, the opportunity often lies in the middle where little programming resides,  but a significant silent majority DOES.

I’m thinking that some of the reasons are simply;

–Leaders Not THINKING about content.  They are, but it’s autopilot thinking.  Sheep herding.  Don’t fix what ain’t broke….don’t rock the boat…or most commonly—Leaders with brilliant business aptitudes but no time for, or motivation to embrace and force noticeable content innovation. Or simply lack creative aptitudes.  Funny how a manager may ascend to a leadership role then suddenly becomes an expert in everything.  We have leaders who think they are experts in everything…but are not, and often lack the eccentricity to think on an inventive content level.  Eccentric, all the way to the bank that is.

–Using the youth excuse.  18-44 wants this stuff.  They do?  I really don’t think most 18-44’s are inspired by American junk culture.  If they were, I’m guessing TV News and Music Radio would be the exuberant global voice of America instead of material for The Onion.

–Looking for inspiration in the wrong places.  There are actually people inspired by the struggling old school media companies.  Merged or otherwise.  That would be like a musician looking to the Capt. & Tenille for inspiration.  I recall in one TV market, “arguing” with a producer—He saying “NBC does it this way…how can THEY be wrong”… I wonder if Apple and Google look to old media companies for inspiration…probably not.

–One dimensional management.  Lot’s of talk about innovation, but no AFDI in what REALLY matters to the bottom line and the digital future:  The content itself.

I am addicted to my IPad, but I thought Jann Wenner makes some good points in terms of NOT following the herd.

What he says is of course arguable, but he DOES actually address content instead of the usual “we’ll be fine thanks to technology.”

One of my “favorite” lines was a respected TV manager telling me, “Hey,  I know our news sucks,  but what the hell,  I just sold it to ____ for a ton of money.” 


–Lee Abrams, former Tribune Chief Innovation Officer
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