Oppression by Surfeit

mindcontrol Highly interesting report today by Ad Age reporter Jeanine Poggi.  Poggi discloses some important aspects of how the big business marketing endeavor known as “television” functions.  Turns out one of the major devices there is refusal to permit what’s called “a la carte” TV subscriptions.

The basic problem is this:

A significant amount of TV viewing comes from casual viewers watching channels that are available to them, but that they likely wouldn’t want otherwise. Networks that fall outside of the top tier include independents like ReelzChannel and Ovation, as well as networks owned by conglomerates like Viacom‘s Centric and Discovery Communications‘ Velocity and the Military Channel.

If people could subscribe to plans of their own choosing, the channels that draw this excess viewing would be dropped and disappear, meaning that the price of ads on channels people actually want would increase, while — horror of horrors! — people might actually watch less television.

Poggi quotes an insider with an utterly exquisite surname:

“If people watch the same amount of TV, only getting channels they want, the supply of ratings points would remain constant for the most part,” Mr. Parent echoed.

But Mr. Parent doesn’t believe the same amount of content would be consumed on TV. “There would be less casual viewing and a drop somewhat in surfing,” he said. “It might drive some people online to watch certain shows. If out of the 10 networks there’s nothing on you want to watch, you will turn it off.”

This, of course, cannot be permitted:

[M]edia buyers are skeptical the industry will ever allow consumers to cherrypick individual networks.

TV networks are staunchly against the idea, fearing consumers wouldn’t pay for their smaller networks like MTV Jams or Cloo and might even blow a hole in revenue for midsize players.

But advertisers could also suffer if cable bundles break up and smaller channels thin in number, which would send more viewers to the bigger networks and drive up prices of reaching a mass audience.

This openly secret core aspect of institutional reality is, as always, a sharp disproof of the #1 alleged reason for allowing private business to run the media environment: “We give people what they want.”

“Social” Networking?

facebook-logo1 I like the idea of trying to out-compete capitalists, especially if that were ever to become a policy and practice of nation-states and world government. I also like open source software, which is a pretty impressive example of the viability of the project. But, with all due respect and solidarity, I find ZSocial, the putative Facebook competitor, to be a hugely quixotic endeavor.

It doesn’t take much looking at Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to notice that “social” is hardly the essence of those operations, even from the user’s side. Legitimate information trading is certainly there, but also obviously a far-distant second to the dominant motive on display. That motive is vanity, bragging, “personal advertising.”

As such, TCT suggests that “social networking” is but a symptom of very-late-capitalist culture. It will have no place in a future progressive-survivalist socialist world. It is not just a trick to advance the penetration and power of big business marketing, but also a pure waste of time and electricity.

How and why does Z miss this basic point?

A Remarkable Letter

omerta Microsoft, undoubtedly trying to exploit overwhelmingly clear public preferences to boost its market share, is apparently planning to release the next version of its web browser with “do not track” as the default setting.

In response, the Association of National Advertisers has sent Microsoft an open letter of omerta protest. It is well worth your study, as it speaks volumes about the true nature of the relationship between corporate marketers and so-called “consumers.”

Notice, first of all, that the ANA and the Fortune 500 signatories accuse Microsoft of “Making the Wrong Choice For Consumers.” Go back to the right choice for consumers, is the message. Making choices for consumers is (of course) just fine, so long as they are the correct ones. And by correct, we mean the choices that the signatories know are best for “consumer interests” and “society as a whole.” Never mind that, even with zero political leadership on the topic, 86 percent of “consumers” expressly disagree with what the corporate overseers dictate.

Also contemplate the spectacle of these overclass warriors daring to speak of the concealment of choices about how the nation’s media run! Why is it that virtually all mass media operations in the United States are dependent on corporate advertising sponsors for their budgets? Is it due to robust public debate and preference? Or is that outcome also a “choice” that has not been, and cannot be, left to the “consumers”? The sponsors of ALEC’s efforts to kill public internet service want us to pretend it’s the former, rather than the latter. Cats everywhere are laughing up their lunch…

Finally, dig the pure Don Corleone closing to this rather amazing letter:

ANA’s Board is prepared to engage in direct conversation with Microsoft. Representing thousands of brand owners that are responsibly pursuing productive pathways to consumer engagement, we believe in a far different course of action. We respectfully suggest an immediate dialogue with key Microsoft executives prior to the anticipated release of Internet Explorer 10. We look forward to your response to our invitation.

Paired with the fact that this thing was broadly released to the marketing trade media, the only conclusion you can draw is that this precedent is a dire threat to the system, so the threat to Microsoft must be proportional to the danger of its planned policy.

Meanwhile, from the citizen’s —not “consumer’s” — perspective, it’s immensely sad how such a fragile, inch-deep power structure remains so thoroughly safe from public ire. As we work and wait for some adequate penetration of its prevailing national hologram, we can at least keep ourselves up-to-date on its true nature. This letter is a keeper in that regard.

Cookie Smash!

shot cookie Viva the European Union’s Cookie Directive! This thoroughly fantastic law takes effect in Europe starting this Saturday. All U.S. activists should start demanding that it be copied here in the USA!

Meanwhile, the marketers are quite beside themselves over it, naturally. Over at Advertising Age, one Shaina Boone, VP of Marketing Science at Canadian ad agency chain Critical Mass, foresees doom ahead — and for the commoners! Boone’s view:

What’s at stake when all cookies in Europe must be opt-in? Poor brand experiences online, even-more-terrible customer experiences, hobbled e-commerce, and the ruin of digital advertising and marketing as we know it.

The law, as it stands, does not consider its impact on the industry. Forcing these requirements on marketers will lead to huge erosion in the quality of web experiences for consumers — the very constituents it hopes to protect.

When customers opt out of sharing their data, they take away our ability to improve products and services. This law will result in websites becoming, well, dumb again.

The chutzpah, delusion, and sheer demagogy of this diagnosis are obviously epic in scale. The basic claims being made — that what’s best for capitalists is best for media and product users, that wall-to-wall commercialism leads to better media experiences, that marketing is about improving products — are as flimsy as they are typical. TCT almost feels sorry for Ms. Boone. True believerdom is no way to go through life, Shaina.

Meanwhile, huzzah and good health to the new cookie-smash law! Occupy, are you watching?