Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Targeting a Readership Part 5: Where is everybody?

Targeting a Readership Part 4 is:

Ran across a WIRED article that brought together a whole lot of observations about drawing a bead on your reader -- seeing the world they way your reader does and so knowing what that reader will find "entertaining" enough to memorize your byline.  Here's the article:


People are increasingly abandoning cable subscriptions, hooking their new flatscreens directly to the internet via their home network (usually from a cable or satellite provider) and watching movies.

In June, I cruised ABC, NBC, SYFY, USA, FOX and a couple others I watch a lot using my cable provider's listings.  I went across the grid for an entire week, and found only 3 series shows I watch coming on again.

I'd heard other series will appear later in the summer, (and they have) but in June I found lots and lots of basically empty airtime, "paid programming" slots, a great deal of news commentary repeats, some really old movies I've seen a number of times, and only a couple of series that I'm not interested in watching.  I cruised maybe 20 or so of the over 900 channels on my cable. 

What I deduce from this is that the networks lack money.

I've picked up a few mentions, which I have not verified, that the total audience at the broadcast networks has dropped again this last year, that cable is picking up audience, but the total-audience size for cable shows is miniscule compared to the 330 million population of the USA.

I've noticed more than just the massively skewed "slant" of the TV News (both broadcast and cable).  They are using the euphemism "24-hour-news-cycle" to refer to what is essentially a news blackout.

Each successive news show throughout the day on all the channels (I comparison shop news) is covering just about the same 5 "top stories" -- over and over and OVER. 

This really means that no reporters or crews are covering anything else, which means they have fewer reporters, and the reason for that is fewer viewers. 

But when I use my Kindle Fire (or iPod or iPhone etc) to access an app called PULSE which lets you subscribe to newsfeeds it selects (you look on a list and populate your pages with feeds you want -- magazines, newspapers, TV channels with video, blogs, and their own distillation of news stories)  I find almost the same 5 top stories pushing all the rest of the Events of the day out of public awareness.

Many pundits hold that the "general public" doesn't want more than 5 stories, no more than 3 minutes apiece, for their "news" for the day.  No attention span, no intelligence, whatever the reputed cause, "people don't want it."

Well.... maybe that's true from a commercial news distribution point of view, but there's a vicious circle there.

When the news "narrative" becomes boring, people tune out, audience drops, advertisers pay less for ad spots, available funds to pay reporters to go search-out-and-report stories drops, the narrative becomes thinner, the audience drifts off bored, ad rates go down again.

The news, like fiction, like pitches for novels, has to be entertaining, gosh-wow, eye-popping, "I gotta tell Nancy about THIS!" viral, so the news editors search for something to put up there that will hold audience attention over the commercials.

I've also noted that the amount of air-time on TV news spent on commercials is now equal to or greater than the amount of time on the "segments" with content. 

That's a symptom of the shrinking audience.  Advertisers pay less, so the show needs more of them to pay the bills.  To reduce costs, they put on fewer "content" minutes and to raise revenue they put on more ads, which drives more audience to click off. 

This is happening on news and on TV fiction Series, too. 

Audience is spending time elsewhere, and nothing these content providers can do is getting that audience back.

According to publishers, the number of copies of a given title (unless you're talking a "tell-all" expose non-fiction best-seller) being sold is going down, copies-sold is shifting to e-book, and to make up operating expenses they are (as publishers always do in recessions) publishing more titles with less advertising for them.

It's the same economics that drives TV cable or broadcast -- audience size.

Now we have games, Facebook and its online games, Netflix and Amazon etc etc delivering movies via the internet, so that even though we have more people ( 330 million vs 65 million in the 1950's heyday of radio when TV was stealing audience-share), we have fewer people per product.

This is the market that new writers are trying to sell fiction into.

I've discussed the multitude of pressures on the storyteller's business model in previous posts here, and no doubt will rave on and on about this because the shifts and changes veer in different directions each year.

2012 is the year of CROWD SOURCING -- YouTube videos are made professionally now, paying actors, camera, stunts, editing etc and making money by getting "hits" on pages with ads, like blogs do.

I saw an interview with "The Obama Girl" who made that YouTube Video making sexy about Obama for the 2008 election.  She was paid to do that video, and though she won't publicly repudiate Obama (thinking he's done a good job) she's not supporting him either.  Her career has taken off, she's making films, and she's living in Los Angeles.   She had made dozens of other videos before that one "went viral" and made her career.  It's a new business model.

I've also seen a number of web-based video fiction projects -- soap opera like installments in various genres, short films, all kinds of fiction-based things. 

On Twitter, I regularly see crowd-sourcing for funds to make films, short and feature-length. 

This is just like self-publishing except it's an entire Group of people doing a project together. 

Writers now face this distracted, divided, segmented, diffuse market for fiction.  There is no single model for "success" (i.e. making a living at writing). 

There is no single proven solution to this problem, but I do believe that such solutions are forming in the electronic era. 

I have not found "where everyone went" yet - and I'm beginning to think "everyone" didn't go "anywhere.'

I think they headed for the hills and scattered. 

What could possibly call them back?  What could gather enough attention to fund something huge, comprehensive, pervasive, and accurately fact-checked as CNN was a couple years after it first started?

I don't know, but recently a friend on twitter pointed out to me a facility on Kindle that I'm not at all sure about, but that holds some promise.

When you read a Kindle book and make notes, you can go on Amazon and turn on a feature that lets your "notes" that you make (like marginal notes when you read a printed book) be read by your friends from various social networks.

The access controls don't seem very fine-tuned to me, but Amazon is testing all kinds of social-interaction communications channels among  consumers of various kinds of products including fiction.

I was reading a Kindle novel titled 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY by Leslie Langtry which I think I will review (it's funny and good!) and clicked on the dialog bubble at the bottom of the screen and found a large number of notes by other people. 

And my hair stood on end!  THIS COULD BE WHERE EVERYONE WENT! 

I wonder if Apple has anything like this. 

It's a kind of "book club" reading experience where you share thoughts on a subject while you're reading about it.  But it kind of creeps me out. 

I definitely know that "people" aren't where I am (watching TV), they aren't where I was, they ARE here among the "share notes" feature on Amazon Kindle, and now that I watch a lot on Amazon Streaming and other such services, I might be able to find everybody.

If you see me pass by, flag me down! 

For more theories on where everyone went see the blog entry here on August 7, 2012. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Cable TV series? You haven't watched HAVEN, FALLING SKIES, EUREKA (one of my favorite "summer" shows; I'll miss it a lot now that it's ended), TRUE BLOOD, BEING HUMAN (I gave up on that one, I admit, but because it got too depressing for me, not for quality issues), TEEN WOLF (OK, I'm losing interest and probably won't continue with this one next season)? Among those I don't watch, DR. WHO seems to be very well thought of.

    My opinion of cable TV is that, although the hundreds of channels naturally increase the amount of dross -- Sturgeon's Rule -- they also allow the offering of many more (and varied) high quality selections than we had in the 3-channel era of my formative years. Actually, there are lots more cool-sounding shows on TV than I have time to pursue.

  2. @Margaret

    Oh, yes, I watch all of those - but when I did this quick survey, we were in the "hiatus" between spates of short-season shows.

    What I was looking at was the MONEY pouring in behind creating these shows. The new biz model for video-fiction is going to be toss-it-on-TV but make your money from STREAMING.

    Read the links in the post I have cued for Tuesday, August 7, 2012.

    Right now we're getting into some furious preparations for Worldcon over Labor day. The Sime~Gen Party this year will be a doozie, I think.