[Paleopsych] NY Post: Mass-Media Meltdown

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Mon May 16 20:20:18 UTC 2005

Mass-Media Meltdown

     May 10, 2005 -- THE mass-media melt down is happening everywhere you
     look from the multiplex to the newsstand, from late-night television
                             to drive-time radio.

    * Hollywood is in a panic, because for nine weeks straight, box office
                  grosses have been lower than last year's.

    As Gabriel Snyder wrote in yesterday's edition of Variety, "In recent
        years the first weekend of May has seen a big expansion in the
     marketplace. But if [the current] estimate of $83 million holds when
    final figures are tallied, it would be the worst weekend of an already
    listless year. It is also 26 percent behind last year's summer kickoff
       frame, when 'Van Helsing' opened to $51.7 million perceived as a
                         disappointment at the time."

      * The editors and publishers of most major American newspapers are
    terrified, because declines in newspaper circulation are accelerating
     at an alarming clip. By one reckoning, the Los Angeles Times lost an
            astounding 13 percent of its readers in a year's time.

     * Television networks are reeling from a dramatic contraction of its
     audience of young male viewers aged 18-34 the cohort most desired by
        advertisers. According to a controversial Nielsen study, their
    prime-time viewership has declined by nearly 8 percent. The number has
                    been shrinking for more than a decade.

     * Talk-radio audiences in major cities like New York and Washington
     have fallen since the 2004 election. Meanwhile, radio executives who
       program music stations and who have been packing every hour with
    increasing numbers of commercials are being forced by their impatient
          audiences to limit the number of ads and play more music.

     * The American recording industry is in tatters, increasingly unable
                to introduce new stars and to sell new music.

    There are compelling individual explanations for these phenomena. For
    instance, this year's movies have been extraordinarily uninteresting.
    And the collapse in newspaper circulation may simply be the result of
       more honest reporting on the part of publishers chastened by the
    public exposure last year of fraudulent numbers at papers like Newsday
                         and the Dallas Morning News.

       But it can't be a coincidence that the five major pillars of the
         American media movies, television, radio, recorded music and
    newspapers are all suffering at the same time. And it isn't. Something
         major has changed over the past year, as the availability of
       alternative sources of information and entertainment has finally
                            reached critical mass.

      Newly empowered consumers are letting the producers, creators and
    managers of the nation's creative and news content know that they are
             dissatisfied with the product they're being peddled.

    Take the moviegoing audience. For 25 years, people have been watching
    movies at home on video and DVD. But only in the past year or so have
    people been able to afford big flat screens in their homes that offer
       an aural and visual experience superior in many ways to a movie

       The $2,000 price tag for that TV doesn't seem so steep when you
    consider that an average married couple has to pay upwards of $70 ($22
      for two tickets, another $15 for soda and popcorn for two, parking
     fees, babysitter) to attend a single film. And it doesn't seem like
     that much of a treat when the movie is being projected onto a filthy
            piece of billowing white canvas that is never cleaned.

     And so it goes. Satellite radio makes it possible for people willing
        to spend $12 a month to listen to superb sound quality without
      commercials. TiVo and digital video recorders have finally made it
     easy for people to watch the TV programs they want to watch whenever
    they want to watch them. And it goes without saying that the Internet
       has transformed the way people interested in news can get their

     It also goes without saying that the owners and distributors of old
    media aren't just going to go quietly into that good night. These are
          still unimaginably valuable platforms. But the key will be
     understanding that the self-satisfied conduct of media professionals
      peddling unwatchable nonsense in Hollywood and on TV, and foisting
     politically correct pseudo-information on increasingly sophisticated
             consumers of news isn't going to hack it any longer.

                         E-mail: podhoretz at nypost.com

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