The Product Feature Is Cancerous: 24/7 Outrage For Ratings

After shouting at the cable news segment you just watched on your favorite network leaning favorably to your side of the political spectrum, you reach for your blood pressure medicine.

“If not for the 24/7 demonstration of actions the ‘other’ side is up to, how else will people learn of all the evils of the ‘other’ side,” you ask yourself as you unscrew the bottle top.

The outrage you are demonstrating in your own living room is intentionally designed by the network as they’ve caught on to how ratings work in their favor the more pissed off you get. Turns out, people love to watch things that make them mad. Now to wash those pills down.

Someone left their media job this past August and provided us further critique regarding the intentional outrage machine which has become the news and information landscape.

Ariana Pekary was at MSNBC, working on one of the main evening shows, and penned a blog post after leaving about how cancerous the news media industry has become.

The driving factor bolstering this sort of rhetoric? Ariana makes the now common claim, like some sort of open secret at this point, which demonstrates the major networks exist not as journalism outlets but money making businesses driven by ratings, not existing to create “diversity of thought” to better inform their audiences.

I highly encourage you to read her post. One thing I highlight from her letter is her comparison to her previous experience in the media, which “due to my background in public radio, where no decision I ever witnessed was predicated on how a topic or guest would “rate,”” she eludes to either the noticeable shift over time how the media operates to dispense information, or, the differences from public radio and network television.

Regardless of this differentiation, it is her previous experience which she compares her recent situation at MSNBC to, and the drive to get higher ratings meant to inflame their audience more and more.

I’ve covered extensively why outrage sells in previous articles, but marketers and executives know through proven studies that outrage keeps people glued to our mediums of media content longer, which translates to greater profit revenue for their business. Ariana is fair to point out this is the case no matter which channel you are watching, it’s not just MSNBC of course.

Second, she discusses that it is taboo within the culture of these media businesses to openly discuss this shaping of content based on ratings. I am reminded of Tristan Harris, a one time employee of Google who spoke up about the damaging psychological hooks being engineered to keep people glued to their products and clicking away. He was listened to by his company, but ultimately not to lead to significant change with what he knew was going on regarding intentional distraction design.

In the news industry itself, if it were to internally come up with ways to diversify the content and bring strong counterpoints (not strawman guests), it would not bode well inside the walls of the current newsroom financial structure. It needs more ratings for more advertising revenue. And perpetual demonization of the other side keeps eyes glued and ratings up.

Third, Ariana provides a stark quote from an inside TV executive, stating:

“We are a cancer and there is no cure,” a successful and insightful TV veteran said to me. “But if you could find a cure, it would change the world.”

Ariana goes on to rightly demonstrate what this cancer is doing to a world being whipped up into a frenzy instead of thoughtfully sorting things out.

Again, no surprise to me, as she further states:

The model blocks diversity of thought and content because the networks have incentive to amplify fringe voices and events, at the expense of others… all because it pumps up the ratings.

The distraction mechanisms, in the form of outrage, are compounding on themselves because there’s no monetary incentive to cool their demographics down. The moment they start doing that, ratings drop, revenue declines.

This is where we’re at, and there’s really no indication any of this is going to change anytime soon.

As a result we have this self-admitted cancer infecting the world at an accelerated rate.

You’re gonna need a refill on that blood pressure medicine, cause the commercial break is over and the next round of people shouting at each other is coming up next.

Published by David Mieksztyn

I am a writer passing along what I've learned.

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