The news media is a tribalism Horcrux.
And if that makes immediate sense to you, you must be stoned out of your mind.
At the very least, you’d have to be a huge Harry Potter dork like everyone in my house.
For the uninitiated, the villain in Harry Potter is a dude named Voldemort. Whenever Voldemort murdered someone, a part of his soul magically attached itself to an important object, like a book, a ring, or a locket, turning the object evil. To kill Voldemort, his enemies would first have to destroy those “Horcruxes” – those pieces of his soul – to make him mortal.
In today’s story, tribalism is Voldemort, the villain. And he, I mean it, is killing objective journalism, turning the news media into its own evil object.
News used to work. With a small number of national outlets and monopolistic local ones, the economic virtues of being “mainstream” kept everyone honest. Moral reasons aside, newsrooms had significant incentives to be balanced, to appeal to the broadest audience of readers and, in turn, advertisers.
But as the internet demolished barriers of entry, a new breed of outlet emerged. Like Drudge Report or HuffPo. And countless others.
To support tiny “newsrooms” (often a single writer), those outlets merely had to siphon small tribes of readers who generated enough clicks to appease a handful of advertisers. They quickly realized that the more their content catered to their readers’ socio-political preferences, the more they clicked and shared. The large media outlets now must play the same game or lose precious share.
As people became accustomed to – even insistent on – content that spoke precisely to their held beliefs, objective mainstream news was screwed. People don’t want unbiased news. Worse, they actually consider something unbiased if it’s biased to their liking.
It has become a truism that the internet is destroying journalism. I would posit that tribalism – our inherent desire to be affirmed, to belong – is truly the destructive force. The internet was merely the instrument, the wand that cast the evil spell.
It’s possible we’ve reached a point of no return. Can you envision a future where Democrats will ever trust Fox News or Republicans, CNN? No.
For objective journalism to live, the news paradigm as we know it may need to be blown up – or replaced with something new.
Anybody know a magical spell for that?
Here’s what we’re seeing right now:
Consumer confidence suffered a somewhat surprising holiday hangover the past two weeks. Our Economic Sentiment Index had its first downturn since October, falling over a full point in our latest reading. Optimism for the overall U.S. economy saw the biggest drop. I could be proven wrong in the coming weeks, but I’m guessing it’s a minor correction as consumers were a bit overexuberant when Christmas was in the air. No reason yet to believe it’s the beginning of a trend.
One thing that helped consumer confidence pre-Christmas was a shrinking concern over tariff implications in the U.S. Our monthly Tariff Monitor showed a clear decline in consumer worry over tariff costs, as a trade deal became (allegedly) imminent. If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself.
Maybe the downturn in consumer sentiment heading into January is because people have to face the entire month sober. A survey we ran just before the new year found that 41% of U.S. drinkers were at least somewhat likely to cut out booze for the month of January and I’d bet the vast majority of them have already bailed on the idea even though I have no data to prove it. Admittedly, it was the most casual drinkers who said they were going clean for the month, so maybe it won’t be all that hard. It doesn’t appear in the study we published, but I happened upon this little nugget below all by myself. Apparently cutting out alcohol makes you really pessimistic about the economy. Don’t do it. Unless you genuinely never drink, in which case don’t start.
CBD keeps growing in popularity. In the remote town near our cabin, there’s what I’d bet is the last remaining Family Video, a veritable time-capsule of movie-stores-gone-by. Our kids love it (“Dad, they should have stores like this everywhere!”). What does that have to do with CBD? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is they now sell CBD products in that same store. But it’s smart because CBD consumption and intent keeps climbing, across all age groups, and especially people suffering from back problems, stress, and anxiety. Apparently also among retro movie nostalgists.
YouTube has quite a harassment problem on its hands. In a rare bit of bipartisan consensus, a full two-thirds of Americans believe YouTube does a bad job of policing harassment across its platform. Younger people and women are particularly likely to see comments on YouTube that they believe should be removed. It’s a real problem.
An epic battle will be waged in 2020, culminating in November, and Americans have never been more divided – over video game consoles. Never too early to start thinking about holiday retail, we began tracking purchase intent around the two huge launches of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, scheduled for later this year. In our early numbers, with very few details leaked about the products, PS5 has the early edge, particularly among women, minorities, and the most frequent gamers. Xbox leads among the biggest gaming spenders. Game on.
Otherwise we published more awesome research this week than I can cover without taking up your entire Saturday. We studied the consumer interest in Pandora’s new interactive voice ads; A surprising number of people who are intrigued by the coming re-launch of the XFL; The most popular New Year’s resolutions of 2020; All the features of Samsung and LG’s “smart fridge” technology they unveiled at CES; And Spotify’s decision to stop selling political ads.
I can’t leave you without sharing our most popular questions thus far in 2020:
- Hypothetically, would you want to be in the British Royal Family?
- Do you think it’s safe to let a dog stick its head out of the open window of a moving car?
- How do you feel about alone time?
- Be honest: do you ever get upset at your spouse / partner for making plans without you?
- Did you gain any weight this holiday season?
- How often do you forget about or lose gift cards that you’ve received?
Hoping you’re well.