What's the mainstream media chasing?

|| November 17, 2013

As the hectares of copy are rolled out for the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy's assassination, one provocative piece has raised an uncomfortable question for many media executives: does the mainstream media really know which audience it is targeting?

Nick Gillespie indirectly frames the question in his scathing piece on how the JFK anniversary saturation is mainstream media pandering to the baby boomer generation. Gillespie accuses the boomer generation of seeking to "preserve its stultifying cultural hegemony even as it slowly—finally!—begins to exit the stage of American life on a fleet of taxpayer-funded Rascal Scooters". And he suggests that mainstream US media is still riding with them.

They're strong words and they can be forcefully debated. It's not clear whether Gillespie believes media is deliberately targeting that audience or if it's a subconscious move by the decision-makers. But the underlying tenet of Gillespie's argument is the question over the audiences sought by mainstream media.

The situation in Australia may be different but no clearer. Take newspapers as an example. Their marketing bosses would be convinced that they know their target audience, pitching their glossy visions to much-needed major advertisers. They're needed more than ever according to the latest newspapers circulation figures. But there is almost always a disconnect between the desires of the marketing minds and those making decisions at the editorial coalface.

And is that disconnect growing as newspapers react to plunging circulation and tumbling revenues?

The mainstream media remains a powerful force - one that can bring a huge reach, plenty of authority and brilliant journalism. But the rise of other media options has equipped business with new opportunities to engage audiences. It's an intriguing time for those looking forward, even if they do pause to consider all of those unanswered questions about JFK.