How Much Should We Blame the News Media for Donald Trump?

There have been a lot of articles about how the media, needing a way to breathe life into this election 12 months ago, hooked itself up to the Trump Train and rode it through every area of chaos it went, cashing their checks whenever it came into the station to refuel. It really wasn’t until they realized that a Trump Presidency was becoming ACTUALLY POSSIBLE, that the media jumped off and then started blowing up the tracks ahead in hopes of derailing it.

But that’s not the question I’m asking now. What I’m curious about is how much we should blame the collective news media for dumbing-down the news so much over the last 10-20 years? Was it only a matter of time before someone like Trump was able to attract the hearts and the simplified minds of “Soundbite America?”

Maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe it’s ours for only being able to absorb 8-10 minutes before needing a commercial break. Maybe we need to be mesmerized with four talking heads each bringing their best two to three minutes of content to a discussion. In this format, no one ever has time to discuss a “How.” It’s only about the “Why” and you usually have a full screen of people with polar opposite opinions fighting to get in the best dig.

But then, I could argue that IS the media’s fault for forcing that format down our eyeballs and earholes. What is the total cost of losing a few viewers to make sure that the people who keep watching get something more thorough than clever quips and cut downs?

I don’t know the answer to that. Broadcasters are owned by public companies so they need as much money as they can get to survive this new media economy that forced them to lose their near oligopoly status. Yes, it is much harder to compete in a bifurcated market than to be one of a handful of outlets covering news. So I understand the need to dumb down the news to make it appeal to more people. But I’m not sure I’m happy with the results.

How to Make the Front Page of Mashable

I’m going to take a wild uneducated guess, than somewhere between 50-500 start-up tech companies sent press releases, emails, tweets and carrier pigeons to Mashable in the last 2 days, trying to get someone to cover them. Some of them were full of fluff I’m sure, but some of them likely had real news, about doing real things, and expanding into real markets with real customers.  You know, real stuff.

Somewhere between 50-500 of those companies were ignored.

But fear not, because in the same 24 hour period, Mashable showed us how to make the front page – have a famous relative and do something outlandish on Twitter.

Item 1: The Zuckerberg Family Vacation Scandal

I’m sure Randi Zuckerberg is a great and smart person.  I’ve never met her, but I have no reason to believe that if she wasn’t a Zuckerberg, she still would have been a successful marketing person at some other social media company.  She’s probably witty, funny, smart, a great business person and a joy to be around.

But so are several thousand other women in the Bay Area.  It wasn’t “Randi” that was covered here.

Instead, it was Mark’s sister who got press in Mashable for a Twitter dust-up over a holiday photo (and a boring photo at that).  Let’s not pretend that the Executive producer of the Real Housewives of San Francisco would be covered for a Twitter spat.  But when you are related to Mark, anything you say gets picked up, and probably more sadly, it gets shared.

Item 2: The Avery Johnson Jr. Tantrum

It’s not enough that professional athletes and coaches need to monitor their own social presences, now they have to worry about their kids’ social media accounts.  Who knew Avery Johnson had a son? None of us, until he got mad about his dad getting fired.  Amusing perhaps, but that’s it. Not much else incriminating on his feed, so that’s that. Except… Mashable’s journalists rush to the rescue, discovering he is a high school junior. Thankfully, we have a full account now on about this breaking social media and technology news – ‘Kid upset that Dad gets fired.”

The Moral of the story:

We read tech pubs and like to think we’re reading things that are more substantive than Perez Hilton.  But when it comes down to it, the folks we’re reading aren’t much different than Perez’s correspondents.  They have their fingers on the pulse of the families of the newsmakers.  And we’re choosing these non-news articles. So lesson to be learned – get someone’s relative on your team.  Doesn;t matter if they are a cousin or sister or son or mother.  Get them a consultant position.  Have them erupt on Twitter.  You’ll get instant awareness for them and your company.  Hmm, maybe there’s a business model here.  Representing the relatives of famous people to get them social media gigs…..

Syndicated Post – What Channel is Your Phone Turned To?

(Sorry guys – too much to do and too little time.  And since I’m spending more time now posting on the Spring Creek Group blog, my guess is that I’ll be reposting some content that I write over there…such as this article.)

What Channel is Your Phone Turned To?

There was a time when you used your remote to change the channel.  Now more and more often, the remote and channel are the same device.

Pew Research released a report that claims 33 percent of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.  So we’ve finally figured out what the people who aren’t Facebooking or texting are doing with their phones – they’re reading the New York Times or Perez Hilton.

The Pew report discusses, “two significant technological trends that have influenced news consumption behavior: First, the advent of social media like social networking sites and blogs has helped the news become a social experience in fresh ways for consumers. People use their social networks and social networking technology to filter, assess and react to news. Second, the ascent of mobile connectivity via smart phones has turned news gathering and news awareness into an anytime, anywhere affair for a segment of avid news watchers.”

pew1 What Channel is Your Phone Turned To? Social Media photo

Younger cell phone owners are more likely to look for news on their phones than from Katie Couric. In fact, according to the report, about 43 percent of those under 50 said they are mobile news consumers.  And social media plays a big part, as more than 80 percent of respondents get or receive news via e-mailed links.  But as Breitbart points out in their analysis of the report, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  People’s #1 one concern is still the weather (72 percent), followed by current events (68 percent).

John Cook from Seattle’s own TechFlash found it worthwhile to mention that, “The authors of the study write that news has become omnipresent and people’s relationship to news is becoming portable, personalized and participatory.”

I think John is right when he focuses on the fact that news (and other information) is omnipresent.  The “news cycle,” so to speak, is no longer valid.  The classic product launch is a thing of the past.  Making a big splash with a marketing or ad campaign is not effective unless there is credibility in the claim, and you can prove that the message is sustainable over time.  There’s an effect in which every marketing action has an equal and opposite reaction.  The more you promise, the more upset the crowd will be if you don’t deliver.

So how is this affecting the way news is being delivered?

“In one way it’s uplifting that over 60 percent of people using their phones for news are logging on to check current events. That goes against the passive news consumer we’ve heard about in TV for years,” says Cale Ramaker, an anchor at WOFL-TV in Orlando.  “On the other hand it means all news outlets, in any median, need to refocus on not only delivering the news in multi-formats – but do it with an emphasis for the right now consumer.”

Cale’s point is valid.  We now have more sources of information, more editors of the information, but also more opportunities to make critical decisions on whether the information is tainted.  And seventy two percent of the survey’s respondents said that “most news sources today are biased in their coverage.” If the “objective” sources are biased, then the marketing sources are unbelievably easy to see through.

So at the end of the day, information continues to flow, and people can find it whenever and wherever they are.  In fact, even if a marketing team lands an article with Kara Swisher, we may not read it there.  We may get it via a friend’s Facebook post or Tweet while waiting for the bus.

Fudzilla Stakes Entire Reputation on the Line With Bold Microsoft Prediction

A Tech blog called Fudzilla announced on December 30, that Micosoft will be laying off 17% of its workforce, which comes out to be about 15,000 people.

Now, this is interesting because they don’t use the terms “speculate” “”could”, “might” or “possibly” to describe the layoff.  The exact quote is “The rumor that Microsoft was set to lay off people on January 15th, 2009 is no longer a rumor but a fact. Staff at Microsoft have been informed that the company is readying major layoffs to its worldwide operations and it’s not a small cut, either.”

Meanwhile Henry Blodget of Silicon Valley Insider Reporter reports today that Fudzilla is just that, full of Fud.  He says “A cut of this magnitude seems highly unlikely, although the targeted areas do make sense.”

I don’t know much about Fudzilla, but I do know Henry Blodget is on the speed dial of every person in Microsoft PR.  So it’s liekly that Blodget is repeating something he’s been told.  Either Blodget is lying, is being lied to, or Fudzilla received some faulty info.  

On Jan 22, we’ll see who is closer to the truth, the blog that originally broke a story, or a reporter breifed by a PR team.  Should be interesting.