Political strategies

Media marketing strategies fuel the political divide

Mainstream media coverage leading up to this month’s midterm elections has created its typical share of criticism for their bias. This is especially true for national media covering the election.

This bias makes sense from a marketing perspective. Information networks are businesses. They need people to watch their shows or read their posts in order to sell advertising. This is how the media generate revenue and profit.

One of the basic principles of marketing is market segmentation. This means that no one provider of a product or service can be everything to all customers, or in this case all viewers. Companies choose consumer groups to target their product to.

Networks segment the news listening market for their programming. MSNBC, CNN and others on the left clearly cater to those who consider themselves liberal and want a liberal slant on all of their news and editorial content. Those with a more conservative mindset tend to get their news and commentary from Fox News, Newsmax or other more right-wing sources.

Watching the same politically charged news story on networks at either end of the political continuum might lead someone to believe they were watching two completely different stories.

This move by television networks to create clearly identified target markets began in earnest with the proliferation of cable television in the 1980s. Until that time, the three major networks of the day, ABC, CBS and NBC, were the only sources of information disseminated.

Since the inception of television news, there has been a debate about whether those who reported on television and on the three traditional networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) they worked for tended to lean to the left. Even TV news king Walter Cronkite admitted to his liberal attitudes after his retirement.

Sometimes someone will ask why a network doesn’t just report the news without bias. The answer is that this approach has not worked very well in recent years. In 2020, NewsNation launched a nonpartisan nightly newscast which, due to low ratings, was recently replaced by a political opinion show hosted by former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.

Viewers want to get their news from people who have the same political views as them. The problem is that this confirmation bias of only looking at versions of the news that someone agrees with leads to even more division between those on either side of the political spectrum.

The same problem occurs for newspapers in cities with more than one newspaper. The New York Times is fairly open about its liberal views on most issues, especially on its editorial page. The New York Post, on the other hand, tends to take a conservative approach to its reporting and opinion.

This problem does not occur as much at the local level. Smaller communities tend to have only one newspaper, so it makes sense that they would have a mix of conservative and liberal opinions expressed on their opinion pages.

Is there anything consumers can do to try to get a more balanced perspective of the day’s events without spending time watching or reading news from media outlets that are politically opposed? You can do what you are doing now. Read public opinion, which attempts to bring you the views of both sides.

Perry Haan graduated in 1975 from Watertown High School. He is a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio.