Dateline: Watch This Show!

While watching the show 30 Rock I noticed that they often times poke fun at products created by the company General Electric.  After doing some research I found that until recently NBCUniversal was owned by the conglomerate General Electric until being sold in 2011 to Comcast Corporation, according to the website Freepress.net.  Being the communications studies scholar that I like to think that I am, I immediately pointed out to myself how this is an example of synergy at its finest.

While synergy can be harmless, as it is in the show 30 Rock, it also has the ability to negatively affect what is considered news by stations owned by conglomerates trying to promote other business ventures such as movies.  As pointed out by Elizabeth Jensen, in her article for the Los Angeles Times entitled “NBC Welcomes Promotion Synergy”, Dateline NBC, one of NBC’s flagship news programs, ran a two hour story on the Friends  season finale.  This helped the final episode of Friends garner close to five million more viewers than the show normally gets.  To further the synergy, the cast of Friends then appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, which lead to the highest ratings for that show in six years.  These ratings mean more profit for NBC who essentially turned its feature news program into a glorified advertisement.

Synergy can also have an effect on politics as pointed out by the website NewsCorpse.com which posted an article detailing how The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on a pollster, Scott Rasmussen, who is a Fox News contributor that was written by John Fund, who also serves as a contributor to Fox News.  The article portrayed Rasmussen in a very positive light which makes sense because of the story being written by another person who works under the same umbrella.  This example of synergy shows how synergy can be used to push not only products, TV shows, and movies, but also political ideologies.

In Ken Doctor’s book, Newsonomoics, Twelve News Trends That Will Shape the News You Get, he defines NBC as one of the “Digital Dozen.”  The Digital Dozen are the news contentproduction companies that he believes will thrive in the upcoming years of the digital revolution because of their global reach, ability to transcend the news platform they started in, and their ability to garner larger amount of money from advertisers due to the huge amount of consumers that want their content.  What Doctor specifically points out about NBC however is how this particular company is learning how to synergize its brands and the content that it produces through its many different subsidiaries such as MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Local, and the original NBC.  Synergizing is the term for when a
company is able to use its subsidiaries and affiliates to help cross promote each other in order to acquire higher profit margins for each.  Another example of synergy between NBC affiliates, besides the one pointed out by Jensen, would be NBC promoting a featured story on MSNBC.com to get viewers of a signature NBC program such as Dateline NBC to visit that website.  This would cause MSNBC.com to have more hits on their website which would lead to more money from advertisers.  Another example of synergy, this time in order to get a political viewpoint across, would be MSNBC.com publishing stories on its website that portray politicians that the owners of NBCUniversal and now Comcast Corporation favor in a positive light so that readers and others who go to the site could possibly be swayed into voting for that particular politician.

Looking at this trend I now understand the importance of being able to recognize synergy and how important it is to companies that are trying to or already have become major powers in terms of the media world.  Going away from this, hopefully people now understand how far some conglomerates will go to get the message that they want across out so that their ideals will be pushed further or their products sold.  Going towards the future I will now be more critical of product placements in TV shows and in the news.  I will also look deeper into political pieces I read to make sure that a biased viewpoint does not influence my political views and decision making.

Photo’s courtesy:

http://cdn.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/NBC_logo.png

http://www.newscaststudio.com/blog/2009/01/27/a-look-back-at-datelines-loo/

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The Fight of Decade: Newspapers vs. The Web

Small town newspapers are facing a huge battle in terms of staying relevant and even alive in this new age of the internet and the speedy access to news and information that this medium provides consumers.  Looking at a small town newspaper such as the South Hill Enterprise, the local paper of my home town published in a county, which according to the

The home of the South Hill Enterprise.

US Census, has less than 33,000 residents who are divided among three towns, the battle they face is how they incorporate the internet into its publishing of news in the area or if they will be resting on their laurels and becoming victim to some of the failures that Ken Doctor pointed out in his book Newsonomics, Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get.

What drew me to this topic was some of the trends that I read concerning newspapers in the book Newsonomics about how newspapers are being affected by this new age.  These trends included the numerous layoffs that newspapers have had to make around the nation and how some daily papers cannot even afford to continue to be printed on a daily basis.  Reading this I began to wonder how these trends where affecting my local newspaper and if they were using the medium known as the internet to stay relevant and to stay alive as a newspaper.  If local papers become extinct, small towns such as yours and mine will not have a source of news that caters to the news being made in small, local communities.  Local news items such as school board hearings and local business dealings will go unreported and the communities that lack newspapers will suffer as a result. Using the web properly and being able to profit from it is critical to the survival of the local newspaper but if bigger papers such as the Los Angeles Times

The home of the Los Angeles Times.

have had to resort to charge for access to the news online, according to an article published by The Daily Beast, what must smaller newspapers have to do to stay afloat? Vadim Lavrusik, a writer who has had work published by PBS Newshour, the Minneapolis/ St. Paul journal and other publications, said in his article for the website Mashable.com entitled 12 Things Newspapers Should Do to Survive, newspapers should focus their efforts on the web and that journalist for these papers need to put out their work in multiple forms beside the basic online news article.  They need to use other forms such as tweets from a Twitter account or even publishing video reports.  He also mentions that reporters should report in real time by incorporating social media tools such as Twitter so that news is broken quicker to consumers.  This is backed up by Ryan Thomas, who wrote a top ten list for the website Listverse.com entitled Top 10 Reasons the Newspaper is Dying, in which he criticized the once per day business model that papers have and continued to follow and cited the internet and how fast it allows news to be published as the main reason for the death of the newspaper.  He continues to say that because of this, newspapers have become “nothing more than a recap of what’s already been said/revealed.”

Both of these writers’ feelings are shared by Doctor in chapter four of Newsonomics, which is titled The Old News World Is Gone-Get Over It.  In this chapter he points out how “old media”, local newspapers and broadcast stations, have failed to adjust to the new world of the internet and its potential as a medium for news.  Singling out two things from this, he says that newspapers falsely believed that only text would be featured in the age of the internet and that news companies did not get the news out quickly enough despite that being one of the strengths of this medium.

Photos like this will soon be a thing of the past.

When Doctor says that, “Newspapers also figured that this new medium would be about text”, he means that newspapers did not take advantage of the video and audio options that the web afforded them.  Instead of having their reporters posting short video and audio clips of the stories they had written, newspapers had their reporters only focus on the news text that they had written.  Looking at the South Hill Enterprise as an example it seems that they have not fully grasped this concept themselves yet.  There are videos posted on the site but there are only a small amount of these and they lack a reporter speaking about the content of these videos or reporting about what is happening in
them.

Another area that Doctor said old media struggled with in this new age is staying relevant.  In today’s world readers expect to have the news minutes after it has happened.  Doctor points out how newspapers had grown accustomed to the large amount of turnaround time that was afforded to them by the once per day cycle.  What is meant by this is that because papers where only printed once daily newspapers did not rush to update readers about news as it was happening.  For example if a robbery had been attempted after that days paper had been printed then readers would have to wait until the next day to read about what had happened.  Using the South Hill Enterprise as a real life example again it seems that their writers post stories to their website as soon as the writer can.  This is assumed because of the date and time that the stories had been posted.  It seems that this paper has learned that readers expect content or at least updates on what is going on in their communities quicker than the next day’s paper.

Small town newspapers have to adapt to change and learn to use the web as a medium if they wish to stay alive.  Going forward people now have an understanding of some of the ways newspapers have failed to utilize the web and what some writers think newspapers can do to stay relevant.  This is important because newspapers are often times the only way some communities can get local news that pertains to them.  Future journalist reading this can now go and save some old school newspapers that have not adjusted well from facing the graveyard by helping to speed their adjustment to the web using this knowledge.

 

Photo’s courtesy of

http://video48.blogspot.com/2009/09/alfred-hitchcock-in-cameo-roles.html

http://dornsife.usc.edu/la-walking-tour/la-times-building/

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/44603945

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Even Fake Conflict Makes A Better Story!

The first step towards becoming a good journalist is knowing what exactly is “newsworthy.”  As a Communication Studies major focusing in Mass Media I’ve learned that there are generally 12 factors that go into determining whether a story is newsworthy or not and one of the bigger one of these 12 is “conflict”.  In some stories the conflict is evident from the beginning but in others the news media sometimes is forced to reach for or create a conflict if they can’t immediately find one.  This was the case 13 years ago when the news media created the “Goths vs. Jocks” conflict during the coverage of the Columbine Massacre and this year when the media attempted to create a racial conflict in the case of the Trayvon Martin tragedy.  This creation of conflict in these two instances reinforces the notion that if one wants to get to the truth of a story they must become their own editor and sort through the vast amount of information they receive about a story themselves.

What originally drew me to this topic was the information that I gained while reading Dave Cullen’s book Columbine.  Before reading this book I was under the assumption that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were gothic outcast at their school and acted out of revenge against the jocks that tormented them during their tenure at Columbine High School.  This assumption was fostered by the news media that covered the story.  This news media created conflict is important to understand because 13 years later it is still done in today’s coverage of news.  On February 26th, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old visiting his father because of a school suspension, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who was a overzealous member of his community’s neighborhood watch.  This senseless crime has had a racial conflict added to it by some news media such as NBC, who showed a police recording that was edited to make Zimmerman look like a racial profiler.  As Ralph R. Reiland said in his article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Zimmerman May Be Guilty, but so are Some Media”, this recording “conveniently fits with the assumption that Zimmerman is a racist guilty of anti-black profiling.”  These news media created conflicts reinforce the ideal that for consumers to become well informed unbiased consumers they must take all of the information they receive themselves about a story and sort through it themselves.

This creation of conflict by the news media means that “readers”, or those who consume and assign meaning to what is given to them by media, have to also act as their own editors.  This is because there is now a need to sort through all of the false information that is given by news media in order to create conflicts and in turn to create what seem to be better stories.  The gothic images and reports of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold aiming their attack against the religious groups and jocks that went to Columbine High School is a false image as both of them where students whom were generally well liked by their peers.  This is an example of a false conflict created by the news media.  Fast forward to 2012 and the creation of the racist George Zimmerman, whom has been adamantly defended by an African American friend and whom served as a role model to young African American males in his community through a Big Sibling program, is another example of the news media created a conflict with this one being one based upon race.

This man is not a racial pro-filer.

These examples fit with Ken Doctor’s first law of “Newsonomics” which is that in “the Age of Darwinian Content, You Are Your Own Editor.”  What this means is that if you want to know the truth or even receive a certain story it is up to you to serve as your own editor and determine what is fact and fiction and what is relevant to you to get to the truth about a story.

Conflict in news and the way that I view and consume news has been changed by my understanding of this topic.  Hopefully readers of this post now know that what is produced by news media, especially from stories that are getting national coverage may be distorted due to news media’s attempt to create conflict and to get a story out in a very quick and timely manner.  It is up to readers to sort through everything in today’s digital age to get to the information that is right and relevant to the reader.

Images Taken From:

http://www.factualtv.com/videos/Dylan%20Klebold/1

http://www.sohh.com/2012/04/update_handcuffed_george_zimmerman_frigh.html

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Are Children the Player or the Game?

Advertisers now are using a multitude of techniques to constantly stay in the eyes of possible consumers of their products.  Often times these techniques are very visible and are easy to pick out as adults but when it comes to children there is more difficulty in doing so, after all, as stated in the article Television  Food  Advertising to Children: A Global  Perspective, children under the age of eight do not recognize that food companies are trying to persuade them about their products and believe these ads as being

Toucan Sam and his niece and nephews.

 

truthful and without bias.  So when looking through websites that market high-in-sugar cereal products I noticed that they used a specific marketing technique to draw these children in and market to them.

It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that it will set the tone for the rest of the day.  Well if our children are eating unhealthy meals for breakfast then they will probably be eating unhealthy meals for the rest of the day which would probably account for 17 percent of the United States children and teenagers suffering from obesity according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children are constantly being exposed to advertisements for these unhealthy cereals through a multitude of different techniques such as websites and having the boxes strategically placed at eye level for them, according to MSN Health. Advertisers know that they must implement more creative ways to get to children due to the fact that they have such a huge say in what their parents purchase (children and teenagers influence more than $130-670 billion of their parents money is spent per year according to globalissues.org) but also because, according to Nancy A. Jennings, as children mature they become more irritated and less entertained by the traditional television commercial.  The internet has provided cereal companies with a new way to market to these children who have grown out of the traditional television commercial.

When a child visits a website for their favorite cereal they are drawn to games to play that often feature the cereal’s mascot.

Promotion at its finest.

An example of this, as shown in the article Marshmallow Power and Frooty Treasures: Disciplining the Child consumer through Online Cereal Advergaming,  is when a child goes to the website for the cereal Froot Loops they will be enticed to play a game featuring the cereal’s mascots Toucan Sam and his nephews and niece Puey, Susey, and Louis.  This game is an example of an “Advergame” which, Dr. Susan L. Graves describes in her article Children As Consumers:Advertising and Marketing, as “online video games with a subtle or overt commercial message where the use of product placement is common.”(209)  These games are a very effective source of advertising as they cheaper and potentially more effective at holding a child’s attention then more traditional forms of advertising according to Sara M. Grimes in her article Kids’ Ad Play: Regulating Children’s In the Converging Media Context.

Through this research I have realized that cereal companies like Kellogg and General Mills will continue to evolve and change to continue to be able to market their rather unhealthy cereals to children.  Having this understanding is crucial because if we as a nation can recognize this we can better shield the youth of this country from these advertisements that have gained the ability to surround children in nearly every aspect of their lives.  I know that I will personally monitor what young children around me are doing on the computer to protect them from these ads that are lending a helping hand to childhood obesity and diabetes.

Photos Courtsey of:

http://promos.ytv.com/frootloopssnowman/
http://x-entertainment.com/updates/2004/07/27/the-froot-loops-alien-fruit-monster-fiasco-part-i/ http://hungrynovelist.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/richard-scrimger-answers-the-hn-questionnaire/

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Looks Like MEN Made It

In an article for USA Today it was revealed that auto companies alone had purchased about 33 percent of commercial time for this past Sunday’s Super Bowl game.  General Motors Company, through its Chevy brand, had released a commercial that poked fun at one of their competitors and the fear that the world would end later this year all in one.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxFYYP8040A
This ad starts off by showing the viewer what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world and a newspaper with the headline reading, “2012 Mayan Apocalypse”, with the byline reading, “Will the World End Today?”  A Silverado truck is then seen cranking up under some rubble and driving perfectly fine and undamaged while the world around it is reduce to piles of rock and destruction.  The driver of the truck, a man who appears to be working class and middle aged, is then shown smiling at the fact that his dog, his truck and himself have made it through the world ending unscathed.

As they drive the viewer sees three possible reasons for this destruction; with the first being a giant robot that has been destroyed, the second being a crashed alien spaceship, and the third being a volcano and comets that would indicate the world ended because of a natural disaster.  After driving to a meeting point where other Chevy truck drivers are waiting the driver gets out and ask his fellow survivors what became of their friend Dave to which another driver responds by saying, “Dave didn’t drive the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road.  Dave drove a Ford.”  This suggests that Dave was not a survivor of this apocalypse and a brief moment of silence is held for their fallen friend.  This moment is broken when the driver and another survivor share a Twinkie as the sky begins to rain frogs upon the men and their trucks.

After this a male voice is heard saying, “Chevy Silverado, from the beginning of your work day to the end of the world, Chevy runs deep.”  Also throughout the ad, Barry Manilow’s song, “Looks Like We Made It”, is played with the lyrics, “Looks like we made it”, being the most emphasized.

Judging by the actors and their appearance and the tag line at the end of the ad, one would assume that Chevy is targeting the working class middle aged man in this ad.

Chevy used multiple tools of persuasion and has built an ad that has multiple meanings; however this ad also does not do women truck drivers’ justice, and portrays women in general in a bad light and disempowers them by neglecting to even acknowledge their existence in this ad.  Chevy also neglected to mention certain crucial things in this ad about their truck and how it compares to Ford in the battle for pick-up truck supremacy.

The Media Literacy Project states that, “The goal of most media messages is to persuade the audience to believe or do something.”  In the case of this ad or message Chevy wants you to believe that their Silverado truck line is the toughest truck on the road and that their truck can withstand nearly anything that its owner throws at it.  They want to use this belief to persuade the consumer of the ad to go and purchase one of their trucks.  To accomplish this however Chevy must use certain techniques to persuade the viewer into doing so.

Most of the persuasion techniques used in this ad where pointed out in the Media Literacy Project and are identifiable in this ad.

The most identifiable persuasion technique used in the Chevy ad was the “Association” technique which, as stated in the Medial Literacy Project, is taking something that is preferred or enjoyed by the targeted consumers and connecting it to whatever the ad is trying to sell which in this case would be the ideals of masculinity, toughness and survival.

Another technique used in this ad was the “Plain Folks” technique which means that the actors or models used in the ad are chosen to represent the product because they have the appearance of an average person.  None of the actors in this ad were easily identifiable actors and where dressed to look like the working class male.  The Media Literacy Project states that this is a popular technique for truck commercials.

Chevy was also able to use tow contradicting techniques in this ad as well with the two being the “Fear” and the “Humor” techniques.  As stated by Ian O’Neill in his article, “http://news.discovery.com/autos/2012-doomsday-reaches-chevy-superbowl-ad-120103.html”, “Whether you are a crackpot with a book to sell, a multi-million dollar film production company, or a car manufacturer, you stand to profit from people’s fear.”  This ad uses the fear of the world ending in 20122 as motivation for buying their truck, however, this is balanced out by the humorous way that this is presented by the song, the way the actors portrayed their characters, and by the sharing of the Twinkee at the end of the ad.

Chevy also used the “Intensity” technique in this advertisement when they used the words “longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road.”  These words intensify the claim that Chevy produces the best and most durable truck.

The last persuasion technique used in this ad is the “Timing” technique.  The Media Literacy Project mentions how “sometimes a media message is persuasive not because of what it says, but because of when it’s delivered.”  This ad would not have been nearly effective if aired in 2011 or 2010 because the apocalyptic content would not be as relevant as it is now.  This is one of the most powerful techniques used and has made this ad all the more memorable because of its timing.

Besides these numerous persuasion techniques there is also a vast amount of subtext used in this ad that is left for the viewer to decipher as this changes from viewer to viewer.  Some of the subtext that I noticed when consuming this ad was the men value the company of an animal more than that of a woman.  I came to this conclusion after noticing the fact that there wasn’t a single visible woman in the ad.  Going off of the lack of women in this ad it could also be assumed that women do not purchase trucks and that women would not survive an apocalypse.

Woman working on a Chevy truck.

These subtexts send negative messages about women and trucks.  The message that women do not buy trucks is completely inaccurate as Ford reported that 15-20 percent of their trucks are purchased by women in the article, “Truck Tales- Why Today’s Women Love Their Trucks”, by Joanne Helperin.  The negative message that women would not be able to survive an apocalypse and that men would rather be accompanied by the presence of a dog then of a woman is another negative message that is reinforced by the lack of actresses in this commercial.

 

This message also disempowers women by simply neglecting to mention their existence as truck buyers or drivers and as companions for males in a post-apocalyptic world.  Also neglected in this ad are some crucial pieces of information needed for potential buyers of a Silverado.

The starting price for a 2012 Silverado, according to Chevy’s website, is $22,195.  This represents a huge piece of information as a consumer need to know how much they would need to purchase this truck.  This is never mentioned in the ad however which represents Chevy not telling part of the story for this product.

Also not mentioned in this ad were facts proving the claim that the Silverado is the “longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road.”  By doing this it seems that Chevy is making claims and taking shots at Ford without evidence to support their claims.

Seeing all this information should broaden one’s understanding of persuasion techniques in advertisements and should also show how under represented women are in truck ad and in automobile ads in general.  This represents a huge gender discrimination as the female purchaser is not appealed to in this genre of ads and could be an untapped market for auto makers looking to boost their sales.  In the future one could use this information to help create a truck ad that was both persuasive and that represented women as potential truck/automobile purchasers.

Works Cited:

Petrecca, L. (2012, January 12). Carmakers seek super bowl ad wins. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/story/2012-01-16/cars-super-bowl-ads/52606508/1

O’Neill, I. (2012, February 03). 2012 mayan doomsday inspires chevy super bowl ad. Discovery News. Retrieved from http://news.discovery.com/autos/2012-doomsday-reaches-chevy-superbowl-ad-120103.html

 

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Hello world!

Welcome to Longwood Blogs. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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Who Dat Who Dat!!!

Hello readers! My name is Tristan Blake Cunningham and I am currently a junior Communications Studies major at Longwood University.  Raised in South South Hill, Virginia I feel like I have come very far in life since enrolling at Longwood University.  I currently hold two jobs on campus, RA and Study Table Monitor, and also hold multiple positions within the Omicron Rho chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.  My educational goal is to acquire at bare minimum a master’s degree and professionally, I would love the opportunity to work for ESPN in the future.

The media artifact that really changed my perception on how media is consumed was the Playstation 3.  As a high school student and avid video gamer when this new (at the time)Photo Courtesy Google Search system came out I immediately recognized the standard that this system would be setting for all future technologies to come.  The fact that this one item could do so much made me realize that going forward all of the different types of media will have to come from a centralized machine rather than having multiple items to play media.  As a machine that could not only play video games but also DVDs, Blu Rays, CDs, Mp3s and also had a full internet browser I was completely blown away with just how far technology has come.  This machine, which my mother at first thought of as simply a child’s play thing and who couldn’t fathom why her sons begged and craved this device, has become the mainstay of my family’s media consumption now.

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