How the media created Bernie and The Donald…

Almost a little ashamed of this, but like what I’m pretty sure is a hefty legion of folks out here in the world – I have been “reading” the NYT and WAPO daily by accepting their free daily news and commentary downloads (and breaking news releases) since they both made their “really free” appearances “on line” back a zillion years ago – which allowed unlimited “drill downs” on posted headline article summaries – which later was limited to 10 free drill downs per month a couple of years ago which has remain their practice to the present day. That’s a pretty long time when you get right down to it.

All of this “free” news largess came from newspaper’s (NYT and the Washington Post – and most other major newspapers across the country) inability to figure out what they needed to do to survive in a world rapidly evolving into electronic and social media distributed news as opposed to the classic home delivered subscription and newsstand distribution.

They also were trying to delay moribund obsolescence – and abject rejection by readers who no longer believed anything they said anymore…after feeling that they’d been lied to by media corporate owners who had consolidated the industry and who were clearly pandering to flagrant right wing politics and corporate causes with misinformation and cover-ups.

And throughout, and increasingly during recent times, these gray ladies kept searching for the magic formulae to regain their audiences and subscription billings and advertising revenues. Most papers launched into the incessant, never ending and tragically and transparently manipulative depressing promotion types and cycles to get people to do what they no longer wanted to do. To buy their newspapers in total. And to pay a lot to get them.

Which, to most of us who stayed outside their efforts and attempts to reel us back into womb, was just not going to happen – given the massive and unforgivable breech of trust during the industry roll up/right wing toady/Bush Administration lying for access years. Which, while being a good deal trickier in the more recent Bezos years has continued – and has made people even more suspicious over adoption of implicit algorithm data based content dissemination to readership classes…which only compounded media’s credibility and trustworthiness problems keeping perspective readers fearfully at bay.

So here we are…a good 20 years since this all began. And the game everybody knows and nobody talks about continues without resolve. It’s too embarrassing.

It appears that the Times and The Post are finally getting close to recognizing their real present day value (which is a whole lot less than it once was) to their long and jaded prospective readers – and are reducing prices for subscriptions (“get 12 weeks for X, etc.) and seem willing on desperate occasions to do almost anything to sweeten the incentive for people to convert from headlines with 10 free drill downs – to buying/paying for the whole thing.

The sad part of all this for the gray ladies – and their “too tricky by half” owners – is that the people they are trying to hustle back into the fold – have long since figured out how to ‘work around’ the “what do you do after you’ve burned up your 10 drill down hits” problem – and have discovered in the process of finding and reading alternative news sources for missing information – that the version of truth the Times and the Post are selling, frequently is seen as being biased and wrong – and on occasion, deliberately and manipulatively untruthful. Not a good thing for news sources looking to establish credibility and trust.

The net effect of all of this over time is that playing the “free headline/10 drill down game” really is hardly worth it – and mostly for the headlines.

We have learned the old fashioned way – by comparison gained in the search for other sources of news and information after the 10 drill downs have been used up – that the drill downs on Op-Ed and feature articles and political news in the Times and Post and WSJ are frequently politically biased to the degree that they simply aren’t worth it. Or even worth the risk of accepting one of these incessant promotional 12-week deal (or whatever) offerings thereby potentially resulting in the cancelation the free daily headline downloads.

One other thing that I’ve noticed over these past transition years is the degree to which the majority of my news is garnered through Facebook these days.

The posting/reposting and ‘sharing’ of news bits and articles that are put on the Facebook – frequently by people I know personally and trust – that are then endorsed (‘liked’) by people who I know or have heard of – and who are known and trusted – who all share similar perspectives and points-of-view – reduces my concern for “can I trust this” as a credible article to almost zero.

My friend Bezos just doesn’t engender that level of trust. Nor do any of the major media owners.

So where am I in all this? Not sure actually -beyond the belief that media’s role in information dissemination is evolving at the speed of light – precisely when everything else that can possibly move is doing the same. And all this is occurring at the same time those invested in keeping things ‘in the question’ and murky and contrary – keep putting up false messages about what’s going on and why. Noise and clutter and yanking and pulling and pushing – and confusion.

In response, we find ourselves placed in the position where if we want to know and understand something, that we have to ‘fill in our own blanks’ about what we are seeing and are hearing…and about how we are feeling in response to it all.

We have been forced to search for our own understanding of what’s happening – and why – and for who and what is responsible for it – and how we feel about that – and what we feel compelled to do about it (if anything).

We are, believe it or not, becoming smarter – and more aware and more thoughtful as a result of being limited to 10 drill downs a month.

We also are becoming more personally involved and committed to the insights we form and the conclusions we reach. And more emboldened to act when the issues we are thinking about are important to us and others – and when we see our thoughts and conclusion and frustrations being echoed by people who we know, who see and acknowledge and “like” and offer supportive comments to each other on social media. People we trust…and who we believe are like us.

I see what is happening in this county’s political arena as being a reflection of this massive shift from passively being spoon fed facts and opinions about them – to being forced to figure out things on our own.

And so we have Bernie and The Donald standing against the long corrupted entrenched media establishment – who created their own demise when they decided they’d make the people they had disenfranchised by lying to them – pay to get drill down lies or be cut off at ten.

What about the NYT and WAPO you ask – and what should they be doing to regain trust and credibility and business viability? Who gives a shit really? They’re good for lists of headlines mostly – so we all know what going on. And drill downs are good so people can get a little more info than a headline worth of understanding.

And since limiting drill downs to 10 a month really pisses people off they need to fix the business model quickly before they make themselves extinct. And since trying to trick people into buying more than they want (like access to the whole paper when all they want is the headline and op Ed titles with drill downs) they need to adopt a strategy that might actually work.

So if I owned the place I’d give the holdout headline/10 drill down people what they want. The headlines with drill down access on everything listed as a headline for a fair flat fee. $20? And if people want more than that, sell them what they want at a fair price.

You know? Until news media becomes useful to us again – they just aren’t worth anymore than that. And it’s been a long long time since they were useful to us – and did their job of keeping people and governments and legislators and those who attempt to play out side the rules for personal game – accountable. Including themselves.

They’ve been a disgrace really.


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