"Although you are rather well situated to do so, you didn't write about something I've noticed over the past few years that I'd like to have you consider.
"Several years ago, I gave up television. I don't have cable and I don't watch broadcast with the rare exception of a sporting event (about twice a year) or some such.
"Television is NOT an entertainment media. Television is an advertising media.
"I find that once I was not subjecting myself to constant attempts to manipulate my materialism, my consumer urges dropped off considerably.
"Moreover, once I quit filling my head with such trivial matters as who lost the most weight or got kicked off the island or purged from Idol, I had the time and the urge to think of weightier matters: is this all there is?; do I really need that?; isn't contentment more important than almost anything else?
"Since you were once in the belly of that beast, I'd really like to hear some of your musings on the subject."
As most of you know, I haven't watched TV regularly in years. I don't think there's a single show on TV today that I've seen a full episode of — except The Simpsons, which has been on forever. There are a great many shows — the vast majority of them, in fact — that I've never seen at all.
I consider myself much the better off for that.
And I haven't worked in the TV business for almost a decade.
Most people in the TV business (or the TV news business, at least) look at it this way: the newscast is the product, and the audience is the customer. That's the way I looked at it, too, and it wasn't until I had been out of the business a couple of years that I found an accurate description.
The accurate description is this: the audience is the product, and the advertiser is the customer. The company's sole loyalty is to its customer, the advertiser.
This is true not only of television, but almost all advertising-driven media.
Advertising is there to sell you stuff, and as part of that process, to make you want stuff you might not otherwise desire. Your will to resist may be enhanced if you realize how you're being manipulated, but even then, it may be hard to say no to some of it.
Media in general also seem to be developing a growing acceptance of the so-called 'advertorial', in which editorial copy is tailored to benefit advertisers. Even the pretense of a 'firewall' between sales and advertising has begun to break down. It's not uncommon on blogs now to find glowing reviews of books or computer software followed by a link to a web site selling the reviewed product, and returning some small payment to the blogger as a 'commission' on the sale.
Americans are now surrounded by pressure to buy, not only in the advertising that's on our TV and in our magazines and at the beginning of our movies and on the sides of our buses and flashing on our scoreboards and in the middle of our web pages, but also in the very content that we may mistakenly assume is 'neutral,' and not intended to sell us anything.
And hand-in-hand with the pressure to buy is the implied notion that there's something wrong with you if you don't buy. You aren't sexy enough without this toothpaste. You aren't getting any respect from other drivers because you don't have this huge SUV. Your children resent you because you don't buy them this snack product.
So, everywhere you look, advertisers are telling you not only that you need their clients' products, but that your life sucks without them. And if you can't afford the products, or have some other reason you can't get them, then you're just left with the notion your life sucks.
I think one way to save money and feel better about yourself at the same time is to isolate yourself from all the people who are telling you you're fucked up, and that the best way to improve yourself is to buy something from them.
Here's a related post from August, 2006.
And another from February, 2007.
And yet another from January of this year.