Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ewww, There're All Old

I went to a book reading and signing last week. I don't go to these often but this was an author I really like and I took along some older titles for him to sign. The room at the Lincoln Center B&N was full - about 150 people - and I was the one of the youngest people in the room. Now, maybe at 7:30pm other younger people are out on the town or still at work but I think here in a microcosm is the publishers problem. All the readers of books are getting on a bit and there is less and less interest in the product from the younger generation. I don't believe this is news to most of us, what with the steady stream of official reports suggesting that reading books is going the way of the dodo and I wouldn't have thought the above worthy of comment except I saw the following news report from Variety.
According to a study released by Magna Global's Steve Sternberg, the five broadcast nets' average live median age (in other words, not including delayed DVR viewing) was 50 last season. That's the oldest ever since Sternberg started analyzing median age more than a decade ago -- and the first time the nets' median age was outside of the vaunted 18-49 demo. Fueling the graying of the networks: the rapid aging of ABC, NBC and Fox. The three nets continue to grow older, while CBS -- the oldest-skewing network -- has remained fairly steady. "The median ages of the broadcast networks keep rising, as traditional television is no longer necessarily the first screen for the younger set," Sternberg wrote.
I guess the news on CBS proves every cloud has a silver lining. Young people spend money and buy stuff. Why would anyone be trying to reach them via the networks. Are they smoke?

Millennials, Screenagers call them what you will are not bound by tradition or habit or convention. Those characteristics are not necessarily unique to new generations. It is the insertion of the power of personal choice into the mix - the ability to select from a far wider range of activities, options and/or content (with no diminution in quality or access) than was ever the case in years past - which has undercut the appeal of traditional media to the 'youth of today' (...said grandad).

In publishing, as I noted a few weeks ago, I think the traditional method of telling a story in book form is dead. It has no future. Telling stories has a future but the vehicle for that may be more a kin to the holodeck on the Enterprise than print on paper. For example, what if as an introduction to Shakespeare I get to read King Lear with Ian McKellen interactively on stage (and never leave my bedroom). What if I don't know who Ian is and decide Cordelia should be 'played' by Miley Cyrus. What if I decide to set up my own theater program and invite my friends to participate online/in game? All of this is going on now. Some of this content is the same as the stuff we struggled through in book form but not so the milennials. Question is where are the publishers?


Anonymous said...

FYI, just because someone is old doesn't mean that they stop learning. Shouldn't be a gross connotation associated with the elderly. And no, I'm not elderly yet, but I have a great respect for them, and one day I hope to be one of them:-)

PersonaNonData said...

I do agree and I hope not to stop learning myself when I am elderly.

Michael Herrmann said...

What a vision of hell that is. What happens to individual talent and what happens to new artists? It's all about pleasing the groundlings--no more deep understanding at all. If this is progress, call me old and bury me now.