business news in context, analysis with attitude

There is a thought-provoking story in the New York Times this morning that, while not specific to the retailing business, gave me pause about a pair of business and cultural trends that we've often talked about here.

Over the years, both Michael Sansolo and I have spoken and written about how, in the digital realm in which there are so many choices available, people are able to focus only on the sources of news and information that they believe reflect their already-formed opinions. If you support Trump, you only watch Fox News and you disbelieve anything you see on MSNBC or read in the New York Times. If you're a liberal, you avoid Fox News like the plague. And in the end, you end up in an echo chamber and rarely are forced to listen to people with whom you disagree and consider the possibility that they may have a point.

While we try to avoid spending my time in a media echo chamber, I've also over the years been enthusiastic about how an expanded number of content sources have created a kind of new golden age, with companies like Netflix and Amazon and HBO and Showtime pushing the envelope and creating new and exciting programming that doesn't depend for success on the mass audiences that are needed by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and NBC.

But the Times piece challenges this, suggesting that niche programming also avoids the need for the kind of "broad cultural reach" that used to define programs like "Seinfeld" and "All In The Family" and "One Day At A Time."

This last program is front and center of the discussion, since a new version of the old hit sitcom - which focused on a single mother in Indianapolis raising two daughters and, at its height, attracted 17 million viewers a week - has just launched on Netflix. The new version focuses on a Cuban-American single mother in LA who is a veteran struggling with PTSD issues; it got very good reviews, but there is just no way that it will ever have the kind of viewership that the old version did.

The result is "the polarization of culture, and the new echo chambers within which we hear about and experience today’s cultural hits ... Instead, we’re returning to the cultural era that predated radio and TV, an era in which entertainment was fragmented and bespoke, and satisfying a niche was a greater economic imperative than entertaining the mainstream."

The problem is that if we don't share experiences, we end up feeling like we don't all have skin in the same game. And I think that's a problem.

As I say, I'm not sure that this is a retail-specific issue. But I think it is worth reading, and you can do so here.
KC's View: