Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Despite all the buzz, the geolocational social media features offered by Foursquare and other sites are slow to catch on with privacy-wary mainstream audiences.

And somehow, I don’t think that offering up an MTV-sponsored check-in badge for every visit to the STD clinic is going to hasten adoption:

The badge itself is lime green and black, with the letters “GYT” emblazoned in the middle.

Foursquare users can go to their own health care providers, or they can find nearby clinics by visiting [the Get Yourself Tested website] and entering their ZIP code. Once they’ve checked in, users will have to post — or “shout” in Foursquare lingo — the letters “GYT” to their friends.

The goal is laudable, of course. And at least Foursquare isn’t offering up mayorships for frequent testers — I imagine such a crown would cure this targeted younger generation of its inherent open-book lifestyle attitude (and lead to a lot fewer dates).

Although I guess that, if this confluence of digital and biological intimacy somehow catches on, it might revive the now-obsolete term for sexually-transmitted ailments. Thereby giving “social” a whole new meaning altogether.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/31/2010 10:58pm
Category: Science, Social Media Online, Society
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Monday, August 30, 2021

Nobody likes a private investigation firm that rats out iffy occupants of rent-controlled/rent-stabilized apartments. But at least these hired snoops are good for the occasional false-identity anecdote:

[Investigator Shane] Williams chimed in about a building where the illegal tenant listed his apartment under the name O. B. Juan KNobi.

Could it be that George Lucas is surreptitiously subletting a pad in some pre-war building downtown? Talk about a disturbance in The Force…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/30/2010 05:55pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Sunday, August 29, 2021

It was inevitable that, in the wake of this leap-of-faith gesture in New York not long ago:

[Homeless man Jay Valentine] said he was hungry and low on cash on Monday when he saw [Merrie Harris] standing with friends outside the restaurant.

“I asked her for change and told her I wasn’t working,” he said. “She said she only had a card. She said, ‘Can I trust you?’ I said, ‘I’m honest, yes.’ I went and bought a few things and came back and gave her her credit card back, and everybody was surprised.

“I said thanks for trusting me. I guess she had a good sense of judgment. She knew I was trustworthy.”

Valentine said he bought deodorant, body wash, a pack of Nat Sherman cigarettes and Vitaminwater. It all cost about $25, he said

…Someone would up the ante and test how other homeless people would behave when handed plastic instead of spare change.

Over the past two weeks, I wandered Toronto’s downtown core with five prepaid Visa and MasterCard gift cards, in $50 and $75 denominations, waiting for people to ask for money.

When they did, I asked them what they needed. A meal at a restaurant, groceries, a new pair of pants, they said. I handed out the cards and asked that they give them back when they’d finished shopping. I either waited at a coffee shop while they shopped or — in the case of those who could not buy what they needed nearby or were reticent about leaving their panhandling post — I said I’d return on another day to pick up the card. That’s when I would reveal that I was a journalist.

The results of this experiment were as follows (keep in mind that those are Canadian dollars, although the exchange rate at the time was basically at par):

Card 1: $50, handed to Jason. Spends $8.69 at McDonald’s. Returns card.

Card 2: $50, to Mark. Spends $21.64 at The Corner Place restaurant. Doesn’t return. Later spends $15.50 at the LCBO.

Card 3: $75, to Joanne. Card is stolen. Over two days, $24.95 spent at McDonald’s, $38.35 at the LCBO.

Card 4: $50, to Al. Card unreturned. Balance remains at $50.

Card 5: $75. Laurie buys $74.61 worth of food, phone minutes and cigarettes at a gas station convenience store. Returns card.

Basically, a mixed bag. I’m wondering if this will spark a trend amongst voyeuristic samaritans: Giving out $20 gift cards to panhandlers, just so the donor can check the account online later to confirm/dash suspicions about how such handouts eventually get spent.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/29/2010 02:35pm
Category: New Yorkin', Society
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There are 16 acres of debris and under-construction land fenced off in lower Manhattan. Is that Ground Zero? It depends on who you ask:

The evolving boundaries of Ground Zero have informed — or misinformed — the debate about its proximity to the planned [Islamic mosque] Park51 community center. The farther away from the place, the bigger it seems.

“It’s constructed as hallowed ground when people don’t actually have a clear boundary for it or a clear sense of what’s within the boundary,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania communications professor who studies political rhetoric. “What you have is a classic instance of people responding to a symbol whose meaning is physically divorced from the actual space.”

Ironically, as symbolic of American imperialism as the World Trade Center towers were to al-Qaeda, the site of their remnants has become just as potent a symbol of resistance and remembrance for Americans. And in both cases, perhaps to a greater degree than they ought to be.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/29/2010 12:36pm
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Saturday, August 28, 2021

devilish by division
I’ve been avoiding making any comment on the whole Ilya Kovalchuk contract controversy, mainly because I’d like to see the situation finally resolved before I weigh in.

The resolution is now is sight, as the New Jersey Devils submitted a reworked, and presumably salary-cap-compliant, deal to the NHL yesterday. Hopefully the league will approve this pact, if for no other reason than the franchise-appropriate way that the numbers average out:

Terms of the potential contract have yet to be released but it is believed to be a 15-year deal worth approximately $100 million, which in an amusing twist would make the cap hit $6.66 million a season.

Apparently, neither the Devils nor Kovalchuk suffer from hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. And this hurts the team’s persistent insistence that its name isn’t inspired by Satan, but rather the legendary Jersey Devil. (Although, if they were truly up on their Christian theology, they’d have gone for a cap hit of $6.16-mil, which would represent the more accurate mark of the Beast.)

This numerological chicanery is nothing new for the Devils, of course. This is the same franchise that used to fudge their arena capacity just to keep the old anti-Rangers “19-40″ chant alive. It’s hockey marketing via calculator…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/28/2010 12:05pm
Category: History, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Friday, August 27, 2021

If, like me, you’ve been skeptical of Amazon’s steadfast refusal to disclose just how many Kindles it’s actually sold, you’re not alone:

It’s in Amazon’s best interest to keep Kindle sales details under wraps, said Michael Norris of Simba Information, a research firm that covers the media and publishing industries.

“They can keep this perception of being the market leader without releasing the details,” Norris said. “It’s interesting to sit through Amazon earnings calls and nobody pushes for Kindle details. It’s as if people are trained not to ask.”

In general, e-books net Amazon more profit versus physical books, Norris said. He points to an “amusing” July press release that said the company sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books.

“A lot of the Kindle bestsellers cost 25 cents — of course they’re going to sell better than hardcovers for $14,” Norris said.

“They’re comparing apples to Apple Jacks,” he added. “This kind of message management is beyond normal corporate public relations. And now I’ve gotten so used to it that I’m becoming suspicious of any stats they release.”

I’m sure Amazon has sold a good volume of Kindles by now. But I’m sure they’re not selling like hotcakes — it’s only after all the price cuts and heavy marketing that they started to move. If these truly were ever a hot item, Amazon would have been crowing long and loud about how fast they were flying off the digital shelves, just as any company with a similar best-selling tech device would. Their silence speaks volumes.

Anecdotally, I’ve seen evidence around me of how little penetration Kindles have had. It took a solid six months after the e-reader went on sale, before I saw one “in the wild” here in New York — and this is a prime territory for such a device. Meanwhile, I spied my first iPad being toted around within hours of its sales release. That’s a bit apples-to-oranges, in that there are several Apple Stores locally, and so there wouldn’t be the same lag in mail-order delivery. But still, I think it’s reflective enough of the reality that Amazon is trying to hide.

All told, the push for these dedicated e-readers feels like a race to the bottom. The now-standard notebook computers will morph into iPad-like designs, making other third-screen devices (other than phones) superfluous. Amazon and the other entrants in that space can cook the numbers all they like toward that end, but that won’t change the eventual outcome.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/27/2010 08:44am
Category: Business, Publishing, Tech
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Thursday, August 26, 2021

The name Muntadhar al-Zeidi probably won’t go down in history. But, improbably, the former Iraqi journalist’s George W. Bush-seeking missile of a shoe might:

Throwing shoes at the mighty has become a global phenomenon that shows no sign of fading away.

Since that infamous Baghdad press conference on Dec. 14, 2008, shoes have flown at the prime ministers of China and Turkey, the chief justice of Israel’s Supreme Court, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, a Ukrainian politician who favored joining NATO, and a string of Indian politicians…

Rare are the memes — the bits of viral behavior — that truly take root in the real world. Throwing shoes at world leaders has joined the club. But what makes shoe-throwing more lasting than, say, the Old Spice Guy?

Throwing a shoe is pure slapstick — aggression and humor blended, violence in which no one really gets hurt. It’s stronger than a sign, or shouted slogan, but short of actually harming a leader.

Validity of symbolism aside, I’m thinking that the political-pie-in-the-face crew is feeling ideologically upstaged.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/26/2010 08:49am
Category: Political, Society, True Crime
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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

bedroom eyesI’m going through my second reading of Bret Easton Ellis’ “Imperial Bedrooms”, and I’m struck by this matching set of questions:

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

“What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?”

These questions present themselves at different points in the book, but the duality they represent is pivotal to the plot. Not to give anything away, but they echo the sentiment — from Ellis’ prequel narrative, “Less Than Zero” — to “see the worst”.

All of which sets me to wondering: What if the answer to both questions is the very same event? A deed so foul that it victimizes the same person who carried it out — think crimes against humanity, etc. — should rank right up there in self-inflicted torment. I’m guessing that that’s not normal for most people, and thankfully so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/25/2010 10:50pm
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

It seems that China has trumped America when it comes to car culture — at least its non-ambulatory aspects, as demonstrated by the epic 9-day/62-mile traffic jam stretching from Inner Mongolia to Beijing:

Fender-benders and broken-down vehicles are adding to the chaos, state media reported. Some drivers played cards to pass the time, while others fumed about nearby vendors taking advantage of their predicament by gouging food prices.

I recall a farcical science fiction short story I read not long ago, which I can’t locate at the moment; it contained a premise very similar to this. Basically, the social underclass in this story literally lived in their vehicles, which were stuck on hopelessly-gridlocked highways, which roads themselves basically extended to all corners of the land (New York City had sprawled out to encompass “One-Thousand One-Hundred Thirty-Seventh Street”, or somesuch). It sounds like Sino-infrastructure is well on its way to making this fiction into some measure of reality.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2010 11:12pm
Category: Society
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Monday, August 23, 2021

Somehow, the genteel image of competitive horseback riding doesn’t jibe with a safety vest that expands upon impact:

The two-pound vest is attached by a cord to a rider’s saddle and is worn over a traditional protective vest made of high-density foam. When a rider is thrown from a horse, the cord is yanked, puncturing a cartridge of carbon dioxide and inflating the vest. The vest can be reused after the cartridge is replaced. [Vest manufacturer] Point Two said its vest inflates in one-tenth of a second; [rival manufacturer] Hit Air said its average rate is one-quarter of a second.

What’s next — similar vests for rodeo riders and bullfighting matadors? Air bags are fine for minivans, but seem out of place in the sporting arena. Even when you’re dealing with literal (versus mechanical) horsepower.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2010 11:07pm
Category: Other Sports, Tech
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What is “hogo”, you ask? It’s the historically distinctive devil’s-piss burn once associated with rum. From the September 2010 issue of Esquire (which isn’t online yet, apparently):

Derived from the French phrase for the “high taste” game meats develop when they’re hung up to mature before cooking — and by “mature,” we mean “rot” — hogo used to be a term of art in the rum trade to describe the sulfurous, funky tang that raw-sugarcane spirits throw off. For 300 years, rum distillers have sought ways first to tame and then to eliminate it: proof distillation (more alcohol equals less hogo), filtering, tweaking the fermentation, long aging in barrels — all very effective, particularly when used in combination. Perhaps too effective.

I’m liking the idea of this raw rum. I bet it would be the perfect ingredient in my much-appreciated Kill Divil cocktail — which, after all, is a Colonial-era drink recipe. I’ll have to track down a vintage-crafted bottle of this hogo-licious firewater, and start mixing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2010 09:54pm
Category: Food, History, Wordsmithing
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Sunday, August 22, 2021

no license
Early last week, I received a couple of unsolicited offers for revenue generation from the content I’ve generated on the Web:

- D2, a newspaper-insert magazine-lette akin to the New York Times’ T Magazine, requested permission to use a long-ago photo I took of the former American Apparel billboard adspace on Manhattan’s Houston Street (a crop of which is featured above).

- The same day, someone at vectorTrap asked to place a text ad on the index page of this blog. Something to do with wireless phone service, I think.

The common thread? Both offers flaked out. I might have scared them off. I asked for a relatively hefty sum from vectorTrap (“hefty” if you consider that I’m sure these outfits usually pay out only a couple of bucks to more naive bloggers), while I told D2 that I’d expect accreditation and some sort of compensation. I didn’t hear back from either after relaying that information. I know D2’s request was time-sensitive, hinging on the production deadline for their next issue, so I assume they moved on.

No big loss, although I’d gladly take the money/credit if it was offered up. Part of my ulterior motive was to avoid going out of my way for such non-spam inquiries, so in that sense, I got what I wanted. The micro-monetization of user-generated Web content doesn’t seem well-structured for substantial cash outlays.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/22/2010 06:07pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Photography
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If you’re too much of a wuss to get your entire arm festooned with tattoos, then you’re probably also wussy enough to buy a Kickin’ Ink Temporary Arm Tattoo Sleeve:

And don’t forget that wristband. Not only does this nylon fakery not work unless the lower edge is concealed (thus avoiding the obvious contrast with the wearer’s real skin), but the whole scumbag-poser look just isn’t complete without a faux-heavy metal accessory.

I assume that the $14.95 price point for these things is aimed toward aspiring douchebags who can’t afford similarly-effecting Ed Hardy clothing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/22/2010 05:06pm
Category: Comedy, Fashion
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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Long ago and several States away, I once kept a home aquarium or two. I never went extreme with my tanks, partly because I didn’t want the hobby to become all-consuming, and because I was renting and didn’t see the sense in installing virtual design elements into living spaces that I didn’t own.

Had those two conditions been eliminated, I suppose I would have shot the works, as is on display in some Manhattan luxury dwellings:

But all that movement and fluidity comes at a price. Universally, owners of fantasy fish tanks describe them — usually in the same breath — as very relaxing and very expensive. Aquariums like the [Karin and Alan Wilzigs’ in TriBeCa] tend to cost a minimum of $50,000, plus at least $1,000 a month for maintenance. And that’s before buying a single fish.

In the world of fantasy fish tanks, it is not uncommon to pay $600 for a black tang or $5,000 for a pet shark, or to have service people on call 24/7 in case a fish gets sick or dies, which could contaminate the entire tank.

I think I spent around $300 to set up my largest tank, a 30-gallon freshwater, nearly ten years ago now. Definitely an eyecatcher in my smallish apartment, and not an awful lot of maintenance (especially compared to saltwater or brackish water aquaria, which tend to require more attention). You can definitely get a nice fish-friendly ambience without spending gobs of cash.

But then, you don’t get neat-o effects like this:

As Mr. Wilzig likes to tell visitors, his [tank] lighting system uses the same software as that of a professional rock concert or a Broadway show… One of the best colors is yellow, he said, because the fish really stand out, but he likes others too. “When you hit the button for red, all of a sudden it’s like the surface of Mars — red fish swimming over a red planet. When you hit white, it’s like the fish are swimming over an arctic ice floe.”

It’s stuff like that that makes me wistful, and stirs me to start visiting pet stores. Definitely on a smaller scale, owing to my environment. Maybe start with a desktop 5-gallon…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2010 08:07pm
Category: New Yorkin'
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This is too funny to not share: A modest proposal, which I retweeted, for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing:

yee-heil! RT @typooper: NASCAR should do one really big race every year and call it “The Master Race”. That’d be an excellent image booster.

Hey, white-trash stereotypes aside, the racing circuit is struggling with recession-depleted attendance at most tracks. Might as well appeal to your base

Only kidding, of course. But I hope you appreciate how I used that 140-character space to meld a pun out of the rebel yell and the Nazi “sieg heil” salute.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2010 07:08pm
Category: Comedy, History, Other Sports
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Friday, August 20, 2021

go 4 it
Lots of buzzing over this week’s rollout of Facebook Places, including the obvious lifting of the social-media-meets-location concept from Foursquare.

Maybe too obvious, judging from the current Places logo, shown above. Notice how the streets intersect within that little map glyph-box, to form a familiar numeral? It’s hard to miss:

“Bahaha. It’s a 4. In a square. And on that night, tongue and cheek were reunited.”

And to infer further, that giant location marker can be seen as poking its way into the heart of that geolocational map. Or dropping like a bomb. You make the call.

If this wasn’t an intentional subliminal visual, then some Facebook designer drone is getting fired today. At least he’ll know where he’s at.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/20/2010 08:18am
Category: Creative, Social Media Online
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Thursday, August 19, 2021

to pop or not to pop
Two years after the turn of this century, I started blogging. Two years after that, I moved my bloggage to Population Statistic. And today, to the day, I’m celebrating six years of running this every-single-day-posting blog.

And how am I celebrating? By seriously considering closing up shop.

It’s true. The handful of regular visitors to this space may have noticed the precipitous drop-off in posting lately, down to a single post per day. That’s well off my pace from years ago, when I would routinely knock out 4-5 posts daily. There’s no doubt about it: I’m running out of steam. I still enjoy writing on this, my little corner of the Web, and even look forward to it most days. But even when the motivation is there, I’m finding it difficult to produce anything that I’d consider worthwhile. It’s getting to the point where I’m disqualifying potential material, ostensibly because it’s not interesting enough, but really because I don’t feel like going through the exercise of crafting a mini-essay.

I can’t say that this low-ebb phase will last. It’s entirely possible that I’ll recharge the creative juices soon, whether due to a change in climate, a shift in lifestyle, or some other factor. But at this moment, I can’t see it. And I don’t see the point in pushing on when I’m not fully into it. Rather than go to a non-daily posting schedule — which is the present trajectory — I’d sooner just pull the site down. Maybe to start over with a new site/blog, or maybe not.

This is kind of a downer way to commemorate a six/eight-year run, especially since most bloggers are lucky to keep at it for more than a few months. All thing have to end eventually — assuming I do end this online hobby. Stay tuned.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/19/2010 11:52pm
Category: Bloggin'
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scream, robotron, scream!
I suppose this is an inflection point in entertainment media: Hollywood’s favorite stock-sound effect, The Wilhelm Scream, is increasingly finding its way into today’s videogames.

Next thing you know, the gaming studios will get even more cinematic and start using the same newspaper prop over and over.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/19/2010 11:01pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

This afternoon, while walking down 8th Avenue toward 14th Street, I passed by a too-tall, too-obvious drag queen. S/he locked eye contact with me, and slowly drew out these words:

“You look mahhhhvelous!”

I muttered a quick “thank you”. And with that, we went our separate ways.

I don’t know if this complimenting queen was channeling Billy Crystal or Fernando Lamas, or both. Or more likely, neither. Regardless, this vignette gives me a good enough excuse to showcase one of my favorite vintage “Saturday Night Live” skits, Fernando’s Hideaway:

Despite my newly-enshrined marvelousness, I have never been to a Hollywood party where dildo-like bodybuilding objects were offered as hors d’oeuvres. But I do know one thing: That it is better to look good than to feel good. If you know what I am saying to you.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/18/2010 09:23pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, New Yorkin', TV
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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

spider-slacker
The American Psychological Association apparently feels that we’re due for a Seduction of the Innocent Part Two, with modern-day movie superheroes as the corrupters of young boys.

“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday,” said psychologist Sharon Lamb, PhD, distinguished professor of mental health at University of Massachusetts-Boston. “Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns.”

The comic book heroes of the past did fight criminals, she said, “but these were heroes boys could look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes, they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities,” she said.

Somehow, I think that Stan Lee is eating this up.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/17/2010 11:25pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Publishing, Society
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Monday, August 16, 2021

It’s been the mass medium of choice for the past half-century-plus. So it’s only appropriate that TV is now showing its age, demographically:

The median age for viewers at [CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox] is now 51. The broadcasters’ audience has aged at twice the rate of the general population during the past two decades, according to a new report. It’s a quiet trend with a real impact on the way they do business.

“It should be a concern, but it doesn’t seem to be a concern at the moment,” said Steve Sternberg, who wrote the report for Baseline Inc., an information source for the film and TV industries that is owned by The New York Times Co. “You don’t want to have CBS, ABC and NBC all having median ages in their mid-50s.”

The risk in having a rapidly aging audience is the networks becoming less relevant to advertisers, the backbone of their business. Increasingly, that’s a way of thinking that itself is getting old…

A young audience has always been the holy grail for networks, but that’s changing, said Alan Wurtzel, research chief at NBC. Not only are more older viewers available, advertisers are starting to recognize that they spend money and are receptive to their messages.

“But that’s changing” has been the supposed trend for the past couple of decades now. When the chips are down, though, advertisers still skew their pitches to the younger end of the spectrum. The fact is, there’s a cachet in tailoring marketing messages to young adults, because it appeals to older demos and their aspirations to identify themselves as “still young” or “not that old”. That’s not going to change — in fact, I’ve argued that it’s a societal trend that’s only going to get more pronounced.

That doesn’t mean that television will be part of that persistent process. The aging of the boob tube audience is a testament to how fragmented the media landscape has become, especially to youngsters who never experienced a world of TV as the primary media outlet. Without that force-of-habit viewership, we are indeed seeing a fundamental shift in media consumption:

Does TV begin a decade-long transformation, similar to what radio went through in the 1950s, with various shows and other programming migrating online, leaving behind… What? Infomercials and pharmaceutical ads on the boob tube, branding it as something that only “old people” watch?

I think that question, which I asked only a little over a year ago, has been answered by these numbers. Welcome to the end of the Television Age.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/16/2010 11:35pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society, TV
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