The wrong way to attract young viewers?


It is a truism in the marketing industry that the 25-49 age group is the one you should be chasing. Not being a marketing guru, I am not quite sure why this is because it seems like older people in general are the ones with more disposable income, while younger people are dealing with the expenses of starting out in life, raising family, etc. Maybe it is because older people are more set in their ways and can’t be easily persuaded to chase after the next new thing or adopt the latest fashion.

Whatever the reason, the fact that the audience of cable news usually has median ages in the 60s (with Fox News at 68) has to be alarming to the executives at these organizations and they have sought to make themselves more appealing to younger audiences. In a comment to a earlier post, raven said that we can see one strategy they have adopted.

The average age of Fox News viewers is far older than the US average and going up rapidly. As predicted, their market share is going down rapidly too.

With present trends, Fox News will be Fox Who? in a few years or decades.

They are well aware of it. Their solution has been to go after younger viewers by hiring youngish, blond women who wear short skirts. It isn’t working. While someone at Fox can count, they don’t know biology very well. The majority of the US population are women and not (mostly) mesmerized by young, blond women in short skirts.

Raven is right that this strategy does not seem to be working. Maybe when it comes to news, younger people would prefer it to be delivered by older people who can more easily convey a sense of knowledge and gravitas and sagacity, rather than by someone who looks like them or even younger who may be perceived to be not as authoritative.

This is not to say that such perceptions are true. But it is my experience as a teacher that students seem to be instinctively more deferential and respectful of older faculty than of younger ones. In fact, during the orientations I run for new faculty, I tell them that that older guys like me carry with us what I call ‘default authority’, where it is taken as a given that we know what we are talking about unless we do something that proves otherwise. But I tell new faculty that there are three risk factors for having one’s authority questioned: being young, female, or a person of color. If they have these risk factors I suggest ways to subtly let it be known to students that they do in fact have great depth of knowledge, just like their older colleagues.

Comments

  1. Robert B. says

    Maaaaaybe Fox should do a little market research, and find out where young (or even middle-aged) people are getting their news now. I suspect it’s from blogs and internet video channels that specialize in topics of interest to them. (Or from the Daily Show, but that’s not a format that Fox can coherently copy.) It would be entirely possible for a 24-hour news network to dedicate time to special interests like science news or art news or whatever, instead of the endless stream of “politics” and “general – but mostly politics” news broadcasts.

  2. doublereed says

    Now that I think of it, isn’t that kind of like the soft maximum of the median age? I would think that if the median goes too high, people would start dying off and the median would stay at that age.

    The part that confused me was:

    The move of Megyn Kelly to 9 PM was supposed to attract young viewers, but Kelly suffered a drop 23% in young viewership compared to Sean Hannity’s 2012 ratings. Bill O’Reilly is down 23% with younger viewers, and Hannity is down 16%.

    This implies that they must have more than 10 young viewers. I can only assume that that those young viewers of Hannity and O’Reilly were satirical comedy writer interns that are forced to endure misery for college credits.

  3. says

    It is a truism in the marketing industry that the 25-49 age group is the one you should be chasing

    Religion would disagree with that truism. I think marketers are just impatient. What they should be doing is trying to convince kids that unless they get the right amount of Nike products they are going to burn in hell forever.

  4. cubist says

    “Maybe when it comes to news, younger people would prefer it to be delivered by older people who can more easily convey a sense of knowledge and gravitas and sagacity, rather than by someone who looks like them or even younger who may be perceived to be not as authoritative.”
    So… young people don’t watch Fox News because they don’t like the way Fox packages its news-like infotainment product? A bit of a superficial analysis, that.

    I suggest that a much more significant factor is, that young people just don’t buy what Fox is selling. Do keep in mind that we’re talking about a demographic which (rightly!) regards the Daily Show as the mainstream media’s most reliable, most accurate source of news, okay? Young folks know that Fox is shilling for the Rethuglican Party, and if they watch Fox at all, it’s strictly to point and laugh.

  5. patterson says

    I recently heard of a study showing that anger can increase your risk of a heart attack 5 fold. Combine this with the average age of the Fox News viewer and it’s not surprising that they’re losing market share.

  6. jedibear says

    Maybe trying to pretty up your anchors just isn’t how you compete with a medium with unlimited free pornography.

    Fox doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not just up against other cable news providers — their audiences are greying too — they’re all up against an existential threat to their medium.

    I don’t think there’s anything they can or should do about it. I don’t think their reputation can recover from having been a mouthpiece of the Republican establishment. Younger people are more liberal, and younger conservatives are alarmingly anti-establishment. Even an attempt to shift their politics would be unlikely to work, aside of being against the entire point of the organization.

    Not to worry, though, scaring old white people will probably still be profitable for years to come, even if it won’t be enough to secure their majority market share of a dwindling market in the long run.

  7. jester700 says

    “If they have these risk factors I suggest ways to subtly let it be known to students that they do in fact have great depth of knowledge, just like their older colleagues.”

    I’d like to know what these are, if you’d care to elucidate.

  8. Mano Singham says

    @jester700,

    Sure, these are the things I suggest.

    1. Especially at the beginning of the semester, dress a little more formally, not jeans and sweatshirts.
    2. Talk about your research and casually let drop that you have an advanced degree. Don’t say “I have a PhD from Elite University” because that sounds like boasting and never goes over well. But students like to know about you and your work so do say things like, “As part of my doctoral dissertation with Professor X at Elite U, we studied how …” or “During my post-doctoral work at Other Elite University, I published some interesting results that I found while studying …”
    3. Be relaxed but also a little more formal at the beginning. Don’t try to act like a buddy to students, until you have been here for a while and established ‘street cred’ as a serious academic. Students talk to each other about professors and once you have a good reputation as a knowledgable scholar, that makes your future courses considerably easier and then you can let your hair down.
    4. Be neither arrogant nor too self-deprecating or apologetic. Don’t try to act like you know everything (students can quickly pick up on when you are bluffing) but also don’t start off by saying “This is the first time I am teaching this material” even if it is true. Similarly don’t say “Some of this stuff is new to me and I am learning it along with you” even if it is true. Both tend to undermine your authority.

    I have to admit that I hate giving this advice because we older men can break every one of those rules and not only does it not cause any problems but we are even admired for doing so. It is undoubtedly a double standard but I have seen especially young female faculty (white and of color) break some of them and get off to a rocky start with students treating them with diminished respect.

  9. jester700 says

    Thank you. These make a lot of sense, though it is a shame there’s such a double standard. My partner has noticed the same in her own experience as a younger female.

  10. says

    Whatever the reason, the fact that the audience of cable news usually has median ages in the 60s (with Fox News at 68) has to be alarming to the executives at these organizations and they have sought to make themselves more appealing to younger audiences.

    The question is, what type of younger audiences are they trying to appeal to? Many of Fox’s talking heads are young, white blonde haired women in miniskirts, and many “guests” come on half dressed. The linked video is less satire than reality.

    http://www.break.com/video/ugc/fox-news-porn-401743

    By the look of it, Fox is only targeting young white males, which really doesn’t surprise me.

  11. moarscienceplz says

    I’m far past this target demographic, but I do remember the era when TV news programs were always anchored by 1 or 2 older white dudes in suit and tie, to exude gravitas I imagine, and the weather was delivered by a cute young woman to deliver what the British in the ’60s called “m-appeal” (i.e. male-appeal), which is how Emma Peel in The Avengers got her name.
    I also remember that these “weathergirls” were disrespected and dismissed by everyone.

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