Who’s your audience? At what cost?

If you missed last night’s Oscars, lucky you!

I watched Seth MacFarlane as host — and yes, I had to Google him — and thought “Seriously?” I found him crude, sophomoric (freshmanic? even better) and deeply off-putting.

English: Seth MacFarlane at the 2010 Comic Con...
English: Seth MacFarlane at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not, however, the demographic the Academy Awards producers so desperately crave, 18 to 49 year old men. By hiring MacFarlane, and larding the show with sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic “jokes”, they thought for sure they had a win.

And they did.

But for every teen boy yukking it up out there, a million others, men and women of all ages, were tweeting and Facebooking their shock and disgust throughout, and after, the show.

Sure, grow your audience…

At what cost?

From msn.money.com:

Seth MacFarlane was full of surprises when he hosted the Oscar awards show last night. This morning came another one: TV ratings for the 85th celebration of Hollywood’s love affair with the movies were up over last year in the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

Early tallies for the show say it earned a 12.1 rating for that group, up more than from 3% from last year’s final 11.7 figure, according to a report in Broadcasting & Cable, citing preliminary figures from Nielsen. Entertainment Weekly notes that total ratings for the Oscars also probably rose over last year’s show hosted by Billy Chrystal. Final ratings, which may be different, will be released by Nielsen later today.

If these ratings hold, it will be a pleasant surprise for ABC and its corporate parent Walt Disney (DIS +0.22%).Some had wondered whether MacFarlane, whose TV shows and movies appeal largely to men, would turn off the mostly female Oscar audience. His song-and-dance number celebrating actresses who have shown their breasts on the silver screen may have offended some, but it was tame stuff by MacFarlane’s standards.

Best known as the creator of “Family Guy,” MacFarlane got mixed reviews for his performance.

Best Actress Academy Awards
Best Actress Academy Awards (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

For Broadside, an unpaid gig, I want an engaged, civil conversation with smart, global, interesting people. I have them! Yay, you!

For my books, I want readers of all ages simply open to new ideas, especially those interested in a new spin on old narratives — whether gun use or low-wage labor. Fortunately, I’ve found them as well.

When I write on business for The New York Times, I want readers to enjoy, think, argue, share. My stories are consistently the third most read and emailed of the entire Sunday paper. So, I’m pleased that my fairly careful targeting of the audience I seek is indeed out there.

But the pursuit of the Big Bucks, in many fields, means lowering the bar — of taste, execution, style, content, tone or intelligence.

It’s not a trade-off I’m willing to make.

How about you?

Who is your audience?

How do you try to win and keep and grow them?

Does it involve making trade-offs between your personal ethics and principles — and making a decent living?

47 thoughts on “Who’s your audience? At what cost?

  1. Thankfully I didn’t watch the Oscars. Of course, I’m not their desired demographic anyways … so I guess they didn’t miss me.

    As for my blogs demographic … anyone who shows up ;lol:. Well, that and I know who it is not ~ the 140 character generation. I am just 4 months in though, so I’m still figuring the rest out.

  2. It’s a question worth grappling with though. I read others’ blogs, and admire others’ tone and content, but know that — even if wildly more successful than mine — many of them it’s not for me.

    Good luck with it!

    1. It’s never been something I thought about, but now I am beginning to understand the significance, and if that alters what I do in anyway. And if it should?

      I read many blogs and see all the success some have, but KNOW THY SELF I think is certainly important, especially with writing. I admire your style and I find your work very engaging. I’ve just begun to write, seriously. Even Poetry again…and posting, which is rather unlike the old me.

      I find you very inspiring. 🙂

      1. … yes, of course there’s that small detail 😉 … maybe crowd funded … than you could write a book about it. One of the blogs I follow, Francis Pryor, is crowd funding his latest book.

      2. Yes…being on TV almost every Sunday Night. It’s an interesting concept though. Again, its all promote promote promote though. Lot’s of time and energy hours…for a maybe.

  3. Fatima

    I did watch the entire Oscar telecast, and yes I did laugh a little, It’s not as good as Poehler/Fey’s Golden Globes gig, but I conclude nobody truly succeeds hosting this thing. Don’t believe me just ask Anne Hathaway who cringed as George Stephanopoulos mentioned her time as host. In fact it’s the same as writing. Not everyone will like what they read, but to squelch it helps nothing.

    As far as audience, first and foremost I write for me. I tried pleasing other people, and it didn’t work. I found myself exhausted. In fact I sounded meaner in an old blog long since deleted. I can safely assure Ms. Laurence I fell more times (metaphorically) flat on my face than she did. Right now keeping my blog does not pay anything. Whether it does, or does not, I try to make sure the golden rule applies. I want to write what I want to read, but I will write about people as I hope someone would write about me.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      “I try to make sure the golden rule applies. I want to write what I want to read, but I will write about people as I hope someone would write about me.”

      You can only burn so many bridges, and to what end? I’m not sure being unkind is especially useful — but I also believe in smart, tart, provocative commentary and discussion. That line can get blurry.

      1. Fatima

        That’s the major problem. Writers, heck everyone, have lost the sense of telling the difference between sharp commentary from mean-spirited name calling.

        I am still fuming over Rex Reed’s comments at Melissa McCarthy, and that serves as one example. I don’t want to see Identity Thief, it’s not my kind of film, but to say those things crossed a huge line. In fact what your wrote about this telecast should get examined alongside news the film is number one again. Is this giving people what they think they want? Have we as a society felt so beaten down by the economy and seismic social changes feel getting low brow means feeling secure?

      2. We now live and work in a world where facts seem irrelevant to a lot of people. Their “feelings”, deeply personal and utterly without reference to the real world, are what impel them to behave in whichever fashion feels comfy to them.

        “Have we as a society felt so beaten down by the economy and seismic social changes feel getting low brow means feeling secure?”

        Great point. I say, yes. When the dog feels kicked, he tends to bite the cat…

      3. Fatima

        I had to deal with a situation in a professional capacity fitting your exact point. This person wrote her ‘feelings’, but presented them as fact in a newsletter. This despite writing in the first paragraph this was her opinion. It wasn’t her opinion making me nearly livid, but her disregard to fact check her points. What could have turned into a thoughtful dialogue came off as immature and brainless.

        Just to be clear between this comment, and my last one, I am generally an easy-going person. I guess this post hit a nerve.

  4. Blogging while working at a PD has helped me hone my ethics in sharing information, I think, but the cost has been I often don’t share enough in specific content for some readers to keep them around – because much of the time I *can’t* talk about what I’m working on. This has been a growing problem as my responsibilities became less trivial. I am absolutely unwilling to move into gray territory with the ethics of sharing others’ info, but I am starting to wonder about my ethics about sharing more about myself. PD work has made me wary of it, but then I see there are many bloggers whose whole lives are documented and at great profit both for reader numbers and even financially. But after the paranoia I’ve picked up, to say nothing about my beliefs in privacy, am I willing to share more about myself, when I’ve seen the risk it brings? Dunno. Work in progress.

    As for the Oscars – not impressed. I had no idea until I talked to you that MacFarlane didn’t do all the writing, because it was very much his style – crude without humor, provocative without pushing the envelope, sexist without social commentary, and racist to an unbelievable degree. Some guy friends of mine, including J. watched Family Guy for a while but J. grew sick of it pretty quickly. According to him, MacFarlane has one trick which is offensiveness that is supposed to result in awkwardness. How anyone thought that style would be good for a live TV production and awards ceremony is beyond me.

    1. I think women are imprudent, certainly if they live alone and are easily findable offline, to reveal a lot about their lives, finances, kids, etc. I’m aware I share quite a bit. But my resume (mistakenly including my home address)has been on-line for years as it is. Anyone who Googles me also knows I know how to shoot and shoot well. So they can draw their own conclusions about coming after me. It happened once that I was threatened verbally — when I used to blog at Open Salon — the language was so specific and frightening I went to my local police (it is a misdemeanor to harass people by phone and Internet; i.e. it is a crime.) They initially laughed me off but I made sure they did not. I got the offender removed from being able to post at OS.

      No one writes their own material at the Oscars. But the whole thing was a nightmare. The producers were clearly feeling so desperate to win those male viewers by throwing them the red meat of this fool.

  5. I can’t say with any sort of certainty what my audience is. I’m still building it, after all. But I think that my audience would probably be many different groups, but plenty of intelligent people. Let’s hope they enjoy my work for the most part.

  6. I agree; Seth MacFarlane is a one trick pony. His gig is making people laugh at other’s expense. While a little jab here and there may be funny, his remarks/”jokes” are tasteless. I like a touch of class in all industries…including television/motion pictures. I’m a woman and over 50 so I guess I don’t count in the vote.

  7. I agree entirely, I found him to be very misogynistic and his jokes mediocre at best. The oscars have always been like Tiffany’s. a place filled with glamour and grace. He sure made one low brow even tout of it. Poor taste, and yes, who in the heck is this guy anyway.
    Thanks for pointing this out.

  8. I’m not completely sure about my audience, but as someone said before, I mostly write for myself. I love to write, and want to write about what I would like to read – my experience is, that a nice audience will follow, an audience that fits what I want to write about. =)

  9. Didn’t watch the Oscars, also didn’t know who Seth MacFarlane was until reading this post. I absolutely have a line, whether you want to call it personal ethics, principles, morals…but I also have a gray area that comes before the line–and that area, I could see exploring. However, as I’ve said before, I will not say/write anything that causes harm to others.

    1. Situational ethics — possibly worth a post in itself. The story I’m filing today for the NYT has a lot of this in it — people insisting all over the place they are only speaking OFF the record. Journos have to make these decisions daily, on the fly, alone.

      1. I think there is a certain validity to situational ethics, or maybe that’s not the right phrase for what I’m thinking about. IMO, there’s a lot of honesty, painful but necessary issues for society, that have come to light by exploring those gray areas; issues that once upon a time were considered wrong to discuss.

  10. I take part at tne bloggers- theme-days  ” simply be” . There I’ ll find interesting blogs and they will find me.

    And by the way: for my blog I like to use fotos- but I dont’ t have a good camera. So I try to win one at a competion
    of our adult leraning center : ”  my favourite place to learn.” 
    HELP from the other side of the ocean would be great !
    I make every day a MorningKlick , mostly on my way to work. To take more attention of the way, my life and every thing…..to take a break,  learning to be slowlier…….

    If you want to support me ( in this idea and in the competion 😉 ) please klick for me: the street sign is mine. But don’ t forget to take away the stars from the others….
    Thank’s from germany 🙂

  11. Great piece! I think the main things that an infividual needs to not “sell out” their values are a vakues-based vision and patient consistency. Doors eventually open for people that do things right. It might not be the fast track, but you sleep better at night.

      1. Do they really get further? Maybe the better question is what we define as “further”. If further means simply a jump in ratings today, fine. If we define further in a more holistic sense and decide that we want to advance society instead of just appeal to society’s frivolities, then maybe we don’t care about today’s ratings.

  12. Liz Watkins

    Couldn’t it be said though, that out of all that happened at this years Oscars, choosing to blog about him is to get views on your blog? Because to us your words he did bring an audience.
    Plus anyone who knows Seth MacFarlane, knows he is offensive. I actually like. He created the movie Ted and the show Family Guy. Its kind of like South Park. You just have to laugh at it. Not take it so seriously. The Oscars are just a popularity contest.

    1. Of course I write about stuff that’s in the news and might bring in readers! That’s why I blog.

      There are millions of Oscar viewers, in the U.S. or not, who had no idea who that guy was before he started offending everyone in sight. The Oscars are, in fact, an awards ceremony honoring the best work in film. Too bad so many people — including this year’s host — don’t get that.

      Would someone making sneering fun of your “boobs” at your wedding dinner speech or graduation — meant to be a celebration — work for you? I doubt it!

      1. Liz Watkins

        The Oscars are not a ceremony anymore. They are a popularity contest. To quote Sally Fields,” You like me you really, like me.” That’s why he was picked. Also I did no say not to write about things in the news. This isn’t new though.

      2. Liz Watkins

        Plus… its just a song. Honestly I thought it was funny. And maybe the theses actresses shouldn’t show their boobs so much and their wouldn’t be a song.

  13. Pingback: Are We Too Sensitive? | DistortedEight

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