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.


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