Advertising has fundamentally changed the way we communicate information.
The millennial generation has been called “Generation Sell” by the New York Times. This generation has grown up under such an onslaught of individualism and advertising messages that entrepreneurship is second nature.
But where does the individual end and the brand begin?”
A Fight for Survival
Newspapers, magazines, and television news always ran advertising. One article in The Atlantic explained that a typical newspaper business model includes 80% of revenue coming from ads and the remaining 20% from subscriptions, thereby requiring outlets to become advertising-delivery vehicles. But as people increasingly have started to go online for their news and sites like Craigslist killed the major revenue generator of classified ads, traditional media outlets have been put in a fight for survival. As subscriptions plummet, even more emphasis and dependence are put on advertising.
But the change in advertising is indicative of a deeper change in audience, an increasingly fickle one.
A Profound Shift in Focus
The PEW Project for Excellence in Journalism has documented this decline in revenue and their resulting shifts. These are some of the most significant changes they’ve found:
• Popularity has become more important than consequence. Since outlets are depending on more eyeballs seeing their ads to bring in more revenue, stories are chosen that appeal to more people immediately rather than stories that might have long-term consequence or importance.
• Speed is now more important than accuracy. With the decreasing attention span of people and increasing velocity of news stories, it’s become more important to be first with a story than to be accurate.
• Opinion and argument are more important than information. Because outlets are focused on the rapid delivery of stories for the masses at the expense of hard information, the result is that personalities and outlets are known more for opinion and argument than actual information.
The Ensuing Effects
All of these are typified in the media outlet that is often referred to as a paradigm of this new, frantic model, the behemoth aggregator The Huffington Post, which Esquire’s Stephen Marche recently called, “The single most destructive force for intellectuals since the first Emperor of China because it convinces writers that their writing is really advertising for themselves.” But the effect is hardly limited to HuffPo.
Like it or not, the church is also not exempt from these effects. Much of Christian content today is also affected by the profound shifts above: popularity is more important than consequence, speed is more important than accuracy, opinion and argument are more important than information, and writing gets boiled down to self-promotion.
How are we going to counter these negative shifts today?”
We must care more about correcting in truth instead of making rash criticisms.
We must write to promote Jesus and his gospel, not ourselves.
We must be known more for who we are for, than who we are against.
We must not sell truth short for the sake of popularity.