Selling Our Principles at Every Turn
Why are we losing the battle of readership retention? What is happening to our readers and to consumers at large? Where are our loyal and necessary patrons? It seems, at times, as if they are revolting against us, and I think perhaps that we partly caused it. As an industry, we so heavily abused our privileges as information providers that we became "street walkers," ready to jump in the sack with anyone and sell pieces of our principles to anyone at almost any price.
What am I ranting about? It is the total abuse and saturation of advertising, marketing and branding. We, as an industry, have put a damn "pitch" on everything. It seems that advertising and marketing may have now killed the golden goose. There is now damn near nothing that isn't festooned with ads, attempts to brand or in-your-face intrusions to sell, sell, sell.
The public is now voting with its wallets, and I think that what they want and might be willing to pay for are "advertising free zones"—a simple little place of peace where you can see a movie, read a book, listen to a CD, drive in your car, ride a train, even read a magazine without being harangued, screamed at, cajoled, flirted with or some other totally intrusive and empty come-on.
As an industry, we just over did it. There is advertising in bathrooms, at gas pumps, in the sky on blimps, on the roads with moving ad-mobiles. I can't think of any place outside of my home without some scheming marketer attempting to get my attention.
What have we succeeded in doing? I think at best we have so numbed the public and taught them by constant attack the skill set to ignore us. It seems like all the screaming at them has worked. We got their attention, and they are very willing to avoid the haranguing, and us.