A lot of people may be unhappy with me for writing this. That's ok, I don't always write to please other people. I am not doing this to get ratings. However, it is partially ratings that I wish to talk to you about today, so let us sit upon the ground and tell sad tales about the death of Good Taste.
Many, many years ago, when I was but a know-it-all teenager growing up in England, I remember seeing a documentary about Crack-Cocaine which impressed me and stayed with me. The set up was pretty clever. The producers (of the show, not the drug) had gone to a marketing firm and asked them what they would do if they were asked to promote this new drug, i.e. how would they go about it.
There were no illusions of what-ifs about the drug. It was illegal, and advertising it was illegal. The Marketeers came up with an interesting approach. An advertising campaign involving news stories and tv reports that would talk about how quickly the drug is catching on, how pure it is, how dangerous it can be, and to make sure that it hit the right target audience, they would make sure the stories ran in places where teenagers and earlier 20 year olds would be watching, since danger=excitement at that age. At my age, I get enough excitement cleaning up cat puke.
At the end of the show, the producers asked the marketeers how much they would spend on advertising , to which came the reply:
"Nothing, because it's already been done."
They then proceeded to show real-life newspaper and TV examples of what they were talking about that demonstrated just how quickly this new drug had been introduced into our collective consciousness.
Now, skip ahead about twenty or so years, and now we come to the unpopular
part of today's story.
News in the US is regional, mostly. That means that my news is about Dallas-Fort Worth first, then Texas, then the rest of the US, and then, if we have time, the rest of the (english speaking) world.
But I am guessing that a) You have heard of mySpace.com, and b) You have heard what a horrible place it is, full of teenagers and sexual predators.
I would actually bet even money that you have a mySpace account.
At least one of our Local TV Channels, and at least one (there's a limit to how many I can listen to at a time) of our local radio channel's is currently doing 'stings' on Myspace.com to catch paedophiles.
Definitely a worthy cause on the face of it, and one that I am fully behind. But I have (or had) a nagging doubt, and so I decided to do a little checking.
The current incarnation of mySpace.com was purchased in 2003 by Tom Anderson. Where it was set up as your typical social networking website like any one of a hundred others.
In July 2005, it was taken over by Fox Broadcasting. This is where things start to get a little tricky.
Anyone who travels a lot and spends their time renting cars at airports and listening to the local breakfast show on their way to a morning business meeting will tell you that content is shared amongst radio stations. So for example, the games, quizzes, 'bits' and new stories for the middle-of-the-road
stations tend to come from one central source. I'm not talking about Howard Stern or Russ Martin here obviously, but more the 'off the shelf' stations where you can swap out DJ's in mid sentence and no-one would notice.
The reason for this is because the radio stations are owned by two main companies: Infinity and Clear Channel.
These companies have their own repositories for show content which they distribute to their local radio stations. It also makes it easier for national advertising campaigns. Remember Trim-Spa? Which of your local DJs lost weight on that diet?
So, Clear Channel gets a lot of their content under an agreement with Fox Broadcasting that was signed at the end of 2004. Whenever you hear a radio show talking about American Idol the morning after the show, that's most likely a Clear Channel station, unless they're trashing it...
Remember the Crack Cocaine story?
Don't get me wrong, I think anyone that preys on kids should be strangled with their own colon, but let's not start holding up these DJ's and TV Producers to be paradigms of virtue. They are just going for ratings, and that is what I have a problem with.
Because this whole blitz campaign is not decreasing mySpace's popularity with kids, it is increasing it.
Listen to the show (or your local one) and you will see how they are careful to refer to the site as 'MySpace.com' not 'MySpace', and how they will frequently mention how easy it is to set up account, and what an incredible number of teenagers are on it.
T.S. Eliot wrote : The last temptation is the highest treason: To do the right thing for the wrong reason.
This is how messed up things have become today. Companies promote their products using fake scare tactics, pretending to try and keep away the very people they want to attract - the weakest most vulnerable portion of the population. Maybe you don't see this as a big deal, but I do. Any time a company tries to hide behind a banner of righteousness, I want to know why they feel the need to hide in the first place. And stop exploiting our kids, assholes.
You want to keep your children safe? Then talk to them about personal websites the same way you talk to them about drugs and sex (and if you're not talking to them about those things, then shame on you).
What websites are you going to?
Who are these people you are talking to?
What do you talk about?
Make sure you know how to check their email, how to check their internet history and how to log chat sessions.
In other words, treat the internet let the modern equivalent of Halloween Candy.
And starting listening to National Public Radio...