Friday, June 06, 2008

The Profit Motive

I'm at a panel listening to Eric Deggans attribute too much explanatory power to the profit motive in explaining what the media does. An example he gave was that given that the target audience for cable news is middle aged white guys it shouldn't be too surprising that they tailor their coverage to middle aged white guys. True! I bet that a bunch of middle aged white guys who run cable news networks think that the best thing they can do is appeal to that demographic. That shouldn't surprise us. But it's also quite possible that they're wrong, and that while they may think they're just trying to increase ratings it's actually just that they're playing to their own strengths, as middle aged white guy cable news bosses.

For a long time MSNBC was catering towards moderate Republicans, as CNN was "left," Fox was "right," and the sweet spot was center right. In reality they were catering to the biases of their very Washington-centric world, where center right convential wisdom prevails. In other words, they were catering to themselves. They were doing what they do best! Profit motive? They may believe it, but it doesn't make it so.