I, Product

Bob Harris explains why some cable channels dedicated to serving you information end up serving you useless crap instead.

To review: news shows are, yes, shows. They do not make money by providing us useful information. They make money by providing us… to the advertisers.

And according to the Google News “Most Popular” section, we care a great deal about dead Playmates, stalker astronauts in diapers, Ryan O’ Neal getting arrested, and Britney Spears not being a lesbian.

In college they taught us that stuff about the business of broadcasting. Most people think that the viewers are the customers and the programming is the product, the inventory. They think that because broadcasters spend so much effort selling the programming to the viewers.

But that’s not correct. In truth, the advertisers are the customers and the viewers are the product, the inventory. They’re selling us to the advertisers. The programming is incidental, and it’s becoming ever more so, since programmers are finding that loads of people will watch practically anything.

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