Friday, March 13, 2015

More on the rise of PR

Living in North Hollywood, one gets plenty of notice of the upcoming Emmy season. Perhaps even more then with the Oscars, this award show is preceded by a blanketing of the neighborhood in "For your consideration" billboards. You can get a rough but reasonable idea of who is spending what by looking at how many billboards you see for different shows and different networks.

Per show, at least, there seems to be a huge disparity between Netflix originals and virtually everybody else. Billboards for House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black are all over the place. By contrast, I don't recall seeing an Emmy ad for Orphan Black or Justified or even the Good Wife. On this per show basis, it would certainly appear that the Emmy-season outdoor advertising budget for Netflix is many times larger than that of its nearest competitor.

I don't want to get into the question of whether or not this is a good business decision on the part of Netflix and I certainly don't want to open the topic of which awards were deserved. Instead, I want to tie this into the previous post on the rise of PR and the decline of journalism.

I read any number of pieces about how winning Emmys meant that Netflix had "arrived." As far as I can remember, none of these articles mentioned the disproportionate level of marketing it took to win these awards. Of course, omitting context is a common sin, particularly when the details undercut the standard narrative (adherence to the standard narrative is pretty much the prime directive of modern journalism), but there is an added layer of conflict of interest here.

The practice of letting interested parties research stories and even write copy is as old as typesetting, but there is reason to believe things have gotten much worse. What was once an occasional lapse now appears to be the norm.

Modern journalism is now basically row upon row of glass houses. Stone-throwers have become decidedly unpopular (check out the NYT's attitude toward Nate Silver). Even if a reporter wasn't beholden to some publicist, he or she would still face considerable pressure from colleagues and editors not to make a big deal of these questionable relationships.

I realize I seem to pick on Netflix a lot, but I really don't have a serious problem with the company.  My problem is with the way today's journalists cover business, neglecting due diligence, allowing conventional wisdom to outweigh facts, and letting companies write their own version of reality.

Netflix just happens to be a great example.

No comments:

Post a Comment