Archive for January, 2012

Are You The Audience?



It starts with a “Yes, ma’am” from the bag boy at the grocery store and ends with the last whistle from the construction worker balanced on the scaffolding aside a building site. It sneaks up on you. Every five years or so, you need to check a different age bracket on the market research survey. It takes you longer to scroll down to your birth year on online forms.  The world seems intent on telling you your sell-by date is coming up or maybe even long gone.

During the meeting of my Audience Insight class, I impress upon the young graduate journalism students: “You are not your audience.” The students are news junkies, media aware, and engaged in the world around them.  They value good writing, in-depth reporting, and getting to the why behind a story. But their audience – anyone other than themselves – they’re allocating their attention assets differently.

This week in class I learned that I am not the audience either. At least not in the minds of programming executives for morning news programs like Today, Good Morning America, or CBS This Morning. I watch morning television but I’m not the audience.

In a carefully crafted and well-researched presentation one student team said it over and over: “The media target is 25 – 54. This is the age group important to advertisers.”

“I feel left out,” I said.

“What?” the student said

“The media target, I feel left out.”

And then I just felt like I had outed myself as over the hill of being interesting to anyone, even a deodorant salesman.

“CBS has changed their morning show lineup,” one student informed the class. They’ve brought in Charlie Rose, as a host. I’m not sure how many of you know who he is and CBS is getting some flak for choosing him because he’s 69 years old. Some people are calling him a dinosaur.”

“Wow, Charlie Rose,” I try to explain, is known for his wonderful in-depth interviews with everyone from Tony Blair to Sean Penn.”  The class stares back at me. I see dinosaurs in their eyes.

“My mom watches Today and she’s in her early 50’s and she says…” the student continues, but I stop listening.  Her mom is in her early 50s. That would make her 54 or under. Her mom’s opinion is still important to the networks. Mine’s not. Her mom’s opinion I still important to her. I hope mine is.

I don’t want this to be a rant on age – because I’m okay with being 55 – there I’ve said it – oops I’m 56. Really, I just forgot. I often forget my age. I don’t feel any different than I did when I was 54 when the media moguls still whistled for my attention to boost their ratings.  The whole thing makes me want a drink and not of Milk of Magnesia, which I’m sure is what they would expect me to sip while swallowing my stool softener.

Advertisers may want youth. Heck, I want to feel young myself. So don’t count me out because age is in the mind and heart. While I may not be able to wear stilettos today it’s only because I ruined my feet wearing them yesteryear. I still walk tall in my flats. I will answer to ma’am knowing that  I still smell as sweet as any 25-year old wearing CoCo by Channel.

I’m not sure about the CBS experiment with Charlie Rose. I’m not sure they’re sure since they paired him with Gayle King, Oprah’s BFF, but I think I’ll give him a try. I’ve always liked dinosaurs, even as a youth.


Survivor: Washington D.C.

“Who is Rick Santorium? Where did he come from and why should I care?” I asked my husband. When it appeared that he and Mitt Romney were in a tie for first in the Iowa Caucus I decided I better start paying attention to the upcoming presidential race.

I care because I hate begin ignorant on the basics of the pretty boy mouthpieces – Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul aside – being featured on the front of the New York Times but at the same time I hate today’s politicking even more. I had decided to take President Obama’s approach to following the Republican presidential debates. In an interview with Jay Leno, Obama said that he is “going to wait until everybody’s voted off the island. Once they narrow it done to one of two, I’ll start paying attention.” How about voting the planet off the island?

It is 2012 and we have the summer Olympics and the fall Presidential Campaign to look forward to, or not. Both involve gamesmanship, posturing, and the discovery that someone is either doping or a dope. Both are extremely expensive to execute and cost prohibitive for the ordinary guy or gal, leaving corporations and the well connected at the front of the line for most benefits.

The Olympics, unlike the presidential race, require some measurable and demonstrable skill. If you take down a hurdle you’re going down as a loser. If you splash the judges with your back flip off the high dive then you’re hitting the showers. If you rely on drugs to get your edge, you’re disqualified.

But just about anyone can run for President, skill not required. What are the skills required to be a good president? This is where I’m out of my league. I’m not a political commentator, just a cultural one. Thank goodness we have the youthful joy of the summer Olympians to break up the long winded drama of the fall men – so far there are no women – working up a sweat on the hustings.


Starting resolutions on January first is highly touted and over-rated. First of all, you have to navigate New Year’s Day events replete with resolution land mines starting with the traditional meal of pork, sauerkraut, and black-eyed peas. Don’t forget the cornbread. Or if you are me…carbohydrates and left over Christmas cookies. Don’t forget the peanut brittle.

Then you have to avoid the clutch of the couch as one football team after another hikes, runs, passes, tackles and with any luck, scores. The couch isn’t the real culprit in breaking my annual vow to exercise more often beginning now. It’s the tortilla chips and guacamole dip that stop me from taking a spin around the park. That and the bean dip and the spinach dip. Don’t forget the chicken wings.

It’s hardly worth opening the Rosetta Stone box with all those French CDs you received for Christmas or starting to practice the piano, again. There are too many distractions from downloading new apps on your shiny new iToy to uploading your profile on the latest social media sites, can anyone get me an invitation to Pinterest?

Speaking of social media – January first is definitely not the time to restrict the number of waking hours you spend on Facebook, Tumbler, and Goolgle+. Quite the opposite. Before setting limits on your digital socialabilty you need to inform all your friends, fans, and stalkers that you are going off the grid for an amount of time/day (half-hour, hour, afternoon – god forbid). If not they may think you have died, shunned them, or just plain become anti-American.

No, January first is not the day to start or stop anything. Easing into the New Year without any major changes that could stop your heart or start people talking about you is not a good idea. Personally, I suggest taking anywhere from a full week to an entire month to gradually introduce yourself to your resolutions. Give yourself plenty of time to warm up to each other. If you need to slow down during resolution execution, do so. Better to take things at the right pace then to force a fit.

Resolver beware. My advice may be sound – as my intentions usually are – but so far by following this plan I’ve yet to take up yoga or cook at home more often, and forget digitizing my photos. And I’m okay with that because in the process of working off one set of resolutions I discovered Pilates, started eating healthier takeout and decided that my carefully sorted and dated pictures didn’t need to be scanned to hold my memories safe. More than that I learned that sometimes it is good to forget the resolution and just move forward.


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