Does the Media Make the Recession Worse?

by Victor Cheng

When it comes to get the latest information about the recession, is the media a friend or the enemy?

More and more so I think the media does more harm to small business owners than it does good.

In a world of hyper competition amongst media outlets, there is enormous financial pressure to get your attention. Without your attention, they can’t sell advertising, and they go out of business.

As an example of this, roughly 150 newspapers have gone out of business in the past year — some after being in publication for 100 years.

In the quest for your attention, there’s one “trick” that the major daily news outlets use. It’s the simple idea that bad news outsells good news.  Guess what? Yesterday, 4,000 airplanes landed safely… NEWS AT 11!

You never see that good news reported. In a crisis situation, bad news gets attention. When readers and viewers get burnt out, reporters, editors, and producers will occasionally throw in a good news / feel good story — especially one that is overly optimistic like some economists somewhere says the recession could end tomorrow.

This of course gets everyone’s hopes up, and then the next day the bad news cycle starts all over again and now that your hopes have been dashed, you’re paying attention to every story.

I was reminded of this the other night when I was attending a local parenting workshop on how to raise daughters. I have two girls and my wife and I are determined to raise them to be happy, confident, and comfortable in their own skin. While that may not seem like much, it my book and given the society we’re in, that’s a very tough challenge.

Even though my girls are only 2 years and 6 years old, about two years ago I started reading the magazine Cosmo Teen. It’s the teenage version of the women’s magazine that regularly promises “7 Tips to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed” “11 Ways to Get you Summer Beach Body Now”, etc…

I started reading it because of the old adage… “know thy enemy”. And in my book, Cosmo Teen is most definitely the enemy to any parent who wants to raise a daughter with a health sense of self esteem and body image.

From page 1 to page 100 of Cosmo Teen, every article, every photo, every word, and every advertisement has behind it the underlying premise that the teenage reader is flawed, inadequate, and generally screwed up. But, by reading this article or buying that product you can be a little less screwed up.

So what’s the solution for teenager girls and small business owners?

According to the parenting expert I heard the other night, there are two options — both of which I think apply equally to business owners.

The first is to not let your teenage girls read that kind of garbage – the equivalent of forcing yourself to avoid paying too much attention to the media.

The second is to “innoculate” your girls from the messages subtly conveyed by the media. An example of this would be going through each page of the offending magazine, rigorously analyzing it, and pointing out the underlying attempt to undermine the reader’s sense of self esteem.

“Oh look at that pimple ad… they just want you to be overly freaked out about it so they can sell more pimple cream.” And do something like that on every page… thus “innoculate” one’s girls from receiving these messages without challenging or filtering them.

For the business owner it means being hyper aware that in the daily news media, those stories get broadcast (or published) for one reason and one reason only — ratings / readership.  The media peddles the bad news so they can make more money.

So when it comes to making decisions about your business, take any information you get from the media with a grain of salt. Even better, do your best to ignore the national news media… and instead pay closer attention to how the needs of your customers have evolved in this economy.

The latter will be much more productive in helping you evolve your business to keep up with or preferably stay ahead of this fast changing economy.

What do you think? Does the media make the recession better (e.g., shorter) or worse? Leave your comments below.

Comments

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alicia May 14, 2009 at 11:58 PM

Just as small business owners should turn off their TV, they should also “dump the clump” and avoid conversations with pessimistic people trying to give personal and business advice. I took the stand long ago to only take advice from people I want to be like. Overall, there are only a few people I would like to emulate or be “like” and, congratulations (!) Victor, you are one of them!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: