Rubbernecker culture

(Note: this was reposted in advance to cover a brief vacation from all things electronic.)
Big broadcasters are experimenting with streaming video and finding that audiences eat up “live and late breaking coverage, celebrities and sex, and innately visual stories,” according to an article in Online Journalism Review that focused on trends in the United States. OJR quoted one source thus:

“It’s the car chase. It’s the guy who proposes to his girlfriend on the floor of the Philadelphia Spectrum and she runs away. Stories about the war. Any war or conflict.”

No surprises there. It’s human nature. It’s why our ears perk up when we hear a siren, or the reason we slow our cars when we see an accident by the side of the road. I work in a newsroom (SF Chronicle) and there are TV’s bolted into the ceilings, usually on a news channel with the volume turned down, and several times in recent memory I’ve looked up from my typing to see chases — on foot, in cars, it doesn’t matter. The action arrests our attention. It has a narcotic effect — and is thoroughly useless. It does not help us navigate or understand our world. Thinking that New Media will simply provide new outlets for old and not terribly helpful habits does not cheer me.

If media is a form of pre-packaged thought shouldn’t it be like the headlights on a car, illuminating possible pitfalls ahead. Take for instance this survey finding : two-thirds of the consumers surveyed in one poll thought their children and grandchildren would NOT be better off than their parents. The survey was done by Big Research, whose findings should be highly reliable because they take large samples in this case 7,500 persons. The short-term takeaway from the survey is that consumers are pulling back on spending and debt. But isn’t there a bigger story to be done here? But wait! This just in: shocking photos of Paris Hilton. Here’s a quiz: what gets the higher click thru rate on contextual advertising, the Hilton expose or whither goes the family budget?

Meanwhile local and particularly rural newspapers remain isolated from the frantic pace of change afflicting their metropolitan brethren Outsell analyst Ken Doctor suggests in an analysis of circulation numbers. Talking to MediaPost Doctor said local newspapers have a virtual monopoly on local news and stronger relationships with their advertisers, who would more likely be family-owned than chains. All these factors make the isolated local market the more attractive place to be an incumbent media.