Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There may be money to be made in being in opposition, but advertisers still care about demographics and reach; the new media take on the fate of the Murdoch press

As I mentioned in my first post-election story below, there is money to be made in being in the opposition - possibly more than being in power. The Nation revitalized its paid circulation thanks to the Bush administration, and Fox News has certainly thrived under an Obama administration. In a world of snake oil salesman, the seller may need the patient, but it really needs the disease. The product is irrelevant.

But sometimes the product is relevant. So now Fox News and the Murdoch press finds itself at an interesting moment in time.

It's audience matches that of the GOP, either because it is designed that way, or because no one outside of its demographics dare watch or read Murdoch's products for fear of seeing themselves maligned and marginalized.

But if political observers are right, and we have entered a time where the share of non-white, increasingly younger voters is increasing, then this will run counter to both the demographics reflected in the Murdoch properties, but also the target audience that is desired by advertisers. In other words, will it continue to be good business to be so narrowly focused.

Last night, for the first time, amendments in support of gay marriage won, or attempts to outlaw it lost, in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. Wisconsin, a state at the center of the right's attempts to limit union power, last night not only gave its electoral votes to Obama, but also elected the Senate's first openly gay Senator, defeating a former governor. GOP pundits on television last night had to stretch awfully hard to justify why continuing with policy positions that are clearly on the wane would make good politics.

But for the media business, executives must do some soul searching about continuing to actively work to alienate ever growing portions of their readership and viewership. It isn't about being liberal or conservative, it is about actively maligning people of color, as Bill O'Reilly did last night, or as Mitt Romney did in a less obvious manner in his infamous 47% remark.

Fox News was not the only Murdoch property in denial. The WSJ this morning said that the Obama win was a result of the candidate targeting "single women, the young and culturally liberal, government and other unions workers, and especially minority voters," acting as if this somehow was a less than noble way to win an election. If ever there was a clearer example of feelings of white male entitlement I'd be hard pressed to find it.

There are good reasons why many young people, and many people of color, look to the new digital media platforms for their news content. They are being increasingly made to feel uncomfortable when picking up a newspaper or turning on cable news. (I should add, that cable outlets that go in the opposite direction, like MSNBC, are fairing no better either - showing that the issue really is about being too narrowly focused.)

It is not a coincidence that the new owners of the Chicago Sun-Times chose not to make an endorsement this year for President. In 2008, when the paper was identified as the liberal alternative to the Tribune, and was seen as a more Southside paper to the Tribune's Northern suburbs outlook, the paper endorsed Barack Obama. Today the paper is in the hands of a group of people more comfortable with Lake Forest than Bridgeport, but chose to forego an endorsement.

But neither paper is actively denigrating its audience, or should we say, its potential audience.

The same can not be said of the Murdoch press. Commentators regular criticize those who support the President as "takers". I haven't heard the word "shiftless" due to its racist connotations, but it's strongly implied. Americans who voted for Obama yesterday are "shallow" a Fox & Friends host said this morning.

In this piece I wrote at the end of last week, I said that publisher's need to realize who is buying ad space today and to create products that target those audiences – it was an argument in favor of launching new digital products for the new digital platforms. But the same argument can, I believe, be made in the area of demographic targeting.