This weekend, I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, because it promised to be awesome if only for the signs. And despite leaving at 6am only to get there halfway through (thanks, MapQuest) it was still worth the trip. Infotainment, as you all well know, is the only way to get a message into Americans’ brains anymore. And besides, 3 million people can’t be wrong (can they?) about the need for some chillage on the media front.
Cutting to the chase, Jon Stewart gave the final remarks, setting his sights directly on the forehead of 24-hour media. David Carr summarized the message by noting, “(Stewart’s) barrage against the news media Saturday stemmed from the fact that, on this day, attacking the message would have been bad manners, so he stuck with the messengers,” because ultimately they seeks to gain the most from irresponsible messaging (even if they don’t see it that way*).
Or is it? Certainly, the 24-hour news channels are capable of grabbing eyeballs (about 5 million on a given night, says Carr). But as we all know, as the eyes go away, so do the advertisers. And in the case of all-day-news, there are tons of “responsible” brands supporting them. So, what if the advertisers went away first?
Typically, brands won’t leave unless something big happens. But if Stewart and Colbert were successful at anything Saturday, it was showing just how screwed up the situation is – we just don’t notice it until they puts things in perspective with a knock-down-punch-out montage of screamy craziness.
Asking brands to pass over the 24-hour news media for media buys is naive, at best, because these channels offer unprecedented accuracy in demographic breakdowns. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that (as Stewart points out), it isn’t just the media who are to blame. We have only ourselves to blame, and when it comes to redirecting our attention, the remote control is our only tool.
*The irony in this post is not lost on me.