How Did You Become a Product?

The Great Network News Conspiracy and Why Facebook is Now the News Leader

If you:

man-with-laptop-inside-shopping-cart-online-shopping-concept_fyj1BKCO.jpg
  • Read an article
  • Like a Facebook post
  • Watch a TV show
  • Watch YouTube
  • Search the web for products and services
  • Scroll through Instagram
  • Sift through snail mail ads
  • Glance at billboards
  • Check in at Starbucks
  • Talk to Alexa (Amazon Echo)

. . . you are what’s called a target audience. Companies try to identify specific types of audiences via advertising and media so they can sell specific stuff to them.

So, traditional media outlets like TV networks, social media sites and news publications collaborate with companies that advertise in order to make this happen.

Not exactly rocket science, ay?

If you take the reasoning a step further, one could say that YOU are the “product” that’s sold to the companies that are so obsessed with these “targets.”

The media sells you to their advertisers. The more they know about you, the better. Once they mesh a targeted ad with a targeted audience, the advertisers have a much more realistic chance of closing a sale.

You are quite the valuable commodity.

John C. Dvorak of The No Agenda show illustrates this beautifully. “ . . you see very specific audiences developed as products,” said Dvorak. “The network nightly news is a perfect example of this. They have all developed an older audience to which the drug companies can sell drugs. Ideally, they, the audience, are old and sickly.”

“Naïve critics complain that the TV network news is no good because only old people watch it,” continued Dvorak. “They go on to say it is dying because they cannot attract younger viewers. This is not true. These critics are know-nothings who should be ignored because they do not understand what is going on. Adding younger viewers to network news would cheapen the value of the audience to the real customers – the advertising drug companies.”

BINGO! So, another question might be: What kind of programming ensures that this “sick” audience stays intact and reliable?

Apparently, this decades-long experiment has deduced that a mix of fear-mongering, tragedy, health information confusion, weather issue confusion, celebrity worship and take-downs, political outrage, and financial confusion works best.

It is in both the advertisers’ and the networks’ best interests to keep this audience unhealthy and infirm. Their solutions come as 30-second “spots” between all the drama and unrest.

This is a very unique audience. Just ask the ad execs:

“One could argue that, given the long-held perceptions” about evening newscasts, “we haven’t gotten the full value that I think we perhaps should have for ‘Nightly News,'” John Kelly, senior VP of ad sales for NBC News, told AdAge, conceding that drug makers and “personal care” products make up two-thirds of Nightly‘s advertising roster.

Ad execs like Kelly even argue that this particular audience is even more unique, because they pay attention better than other audiences.

Pretty cool, huh?

There are more layers. If you extend these thoughts, it’s pretty clear why Facebook would be a center of gravity for all this. Facebook is the corner store, the gossip headquarters for fake news, real news, salacious news, outrageous news and everything in between. The whole village is there, undressed, embarrassed, bragging, smirking, trolling and joking.

People pull their friends into news stories via Facebook - whether by outrage (Trump sucks!), empathy (Raise money for _fill in the blank_ cause.), sports bragging/baiting (Tom Brady is a douche!) or health scares (coffee, Zika, opioids!). And, according to Pew Research, 62% of people get news via social media (mostly Facebook, Twitter and Reddit - I would think that LinkedIn drives a lot of business news, as well).

So that’s the town square, and Mark Zuckerberg and company control the feed with “algorithms” that are supposed to be helping you out by showing you what’s best for you according to what you like, click on, view for more than 30 seconds and so forth. They’re the data machine that’s constantly taking your temperature in order to serve up more crappy news stories and “relevant ads.”

Just remember - you are the product in systems that support and promote paid advertising. The more you take this to heart, the better you can “reclaim your time,” avoid feeling poorly because of whipped up “news,” and get on with your life.

There are a lot of great topics to dive into here. We’ll circle back for deeper dives soon. Stay tuned! And, comment below to add your 2c.