The beginning of the end of mass media

The beginning of the end of mass media
Broadcasters take note! This prediction comes from one of the top advertising guys in the business, Tim Hanlon of Chicago-based media giant Starcom MediaVest Group. In a thoughtful article in the Chicago Tribune Hanlon says, “Technology is greatly exacerbating choice and transferring control to the consumer.” This is something we’ve been saying all along, and it’s both gratifying and chilling to hear it coming from someone with Hanlon’s credentials. The Tribune piece examines the drop in young male viewers and makes dire predictions for the future.

Before the startling viewership drop, many advertisers were already considering major changes in how they try to reach consumers Traditional methods, such as mass-reach broadcast television, appear to be fading.

“I suspect it’s the beginning of the end of mass media–in the television world that’s broadcasting–as a [mass] audience deliverer,” said Tim Hanlon, vice president of emerging contacts at Chicago-based media giant Starcom MediaVest Group.

The problem of the missing males may be the start of a larger audience retreat.

“Today’s males are tomorrow’s mothers and next week’s 2- to 11-year-olds,” Hanlon said.

Instead of marketing “one to many,” advertisers will now be faced with marketing “one to some,” he said.

This is crucial for broadcasters to understand, for it is their basic mindset — that their tower reaches a mass audience — that’s under assault by disruptive technologies that “ride existing infrastructures,” as FCC Chairman Michael Powell so accurately stated. Marketing to “some” is completely foreign to those who cling to the status quo.
Bill Lamar, U.S. marketing chief for McDonald’s Corp., last summer shocked media executives when he said the company was shifting more of its media dollars into digital media as younger consumers spend more time online and less in front of the tube.

The company has yet to say how much of its budget will shift from traditional TV to digital media.

“We know that more and more adult males are spending more time on the Web. It’s something we’re doing anyway and not reacting to monthly data,” McDonald’s spokesman Bill Whitman said.

The handwriting is on the wall of broadcast executives, and one hopes they’ll see it before it’s too late. Let no one say they haven’t been warned.


  1. Matt C. Wilson says


    I would love to hear your remarks on the rise of the video game industry and the mass media’s continued failure to grasp the full picture. I was directed to this NY Post article today as yet another example of the extraordinarily singular view the media takes towards the video game community. Who are, in fact, most of that 13–30 year old male demograph they’ve already alienated.

    Video games are a very postmodern form of entertainment. The many different types of games available give the consumer a wealth of options, and each game stands on the merits of its content and enjoyability. Although games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, mentioned in the article, are typically the focus of the media, hungrily looking to generate buzz and sensationalism around connections to violence, video games have a much larger profile. Many do not realize that when they open Solitaire or Minesweeper on their Windows PC, they are playing a video game. This trend will only continue to rise, as personal electronic devices continue to proliferate and come with games included.

    I can’t help but feel like an industry which has surpassed Hollywood for several years now in revenue is being largely misrepresented by the mass media. Almost certainly there is some subtext of the threat they must feel from “new entertainment”. As a member of the disenfranchised I am definitely looking forward to the cultural shift underway.

  2. Matt,

    I appreciate the comment. I habitually play Freecell while I’m thinking and creating. I find it occupies certain braincells that tend to make me wander.

    You must always remember that the press functions from atop a pedestal, which disconnects them from the rest of us. Postmodernism is a bottom-up thing, so it doesn’t really matter what anybody “up there” thinks. We’ll just roll along and do our thing, creating our own press and commerce without them.

    Whenever I think about video games, I can’t help but remember the film, “The Last Starfighter,” the hero of which was recruited because he was an ace at a video game. It’s a reminder that there are good things about playing such.

    You’re right in saying video games are very postmodern. I’ll mull this over and write about it one day.

    Meanwhile, keep the faith.


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