I haven’t quite achieved my birthday this year, but recently I have been made to realize just how far out I already am of that most desirable 18-45 demographic.
Of course there was the driver’s license trauma of leaving my blondness behind, but I took two other hits last week, both of them from the media, of which I am an avid consumer — and both have left me feeling rather unwanted as that consumer.
CBS, which ranks a persistent third among the Big Three in morning news shows, is shaking things up starting today. The title of their show changes from CBS This Morning to CBS Mornings. I don’t really get how that’s an improvement, but if it makes them happy, fine. (And it prepares them if they remain in third place: CBS Mournings.) They also seem excited about moving their studio from wherever it is in New York to some other place in New York. Still doesn’t matter to me.
But then. They are shaking up their anchor desk yet once again, and while I’m trying to withhold judgment, I can’t help but feel rather let down and abandoned. Anthony Mason has been jettisoned, without so much as a thanks or a good-bye.
He’s not going far, or so I understand: he is shifting his focus to their entertainment and cultural stories, which clearly have been his favorite reportage for quite some time. I wish I could believe this is his decision. He and I seem to be of an age, or thereabouts, and maybe it was his choice to cut back on the daily demands of the anchor job to focus on the areas that interest him most.
The word I always use to describe Mr. Mason is “avuncular,” even though we’re likely of an age, and I find him to be a steady, soothing presence at the anchor desk, a veteran newscaster who can deliver the news in courtly fashion. I am gong to miss him, although had they chosen to replace him with Vlad Duthiers I would try to roll with it, just like the name and studio change are rather “meh” to me no matter how much CBS is frothing about it.
I was rooting for Mr. Duthiers (Doo-tee-ay) for the same reasons I like Mr. Mason: he is calm, compassionate and quietly commanding. But they didn’t give him the anchor job last time, opting instead to give him a regular weekday feature (“What to Watch”) and generally first crack at the fill-in when one of the regular anchors takes time off.
That appears to be where they’re going to leave him, and instead they are replacing Mr. Mason with Nate Burleson, who filled in on the “What to Watch” segment when Mr. Duthiers was off. And that is the clue I need to tell me I am not part of their desired demographic.
Mr. Duthiers appears to also be in his 50s. You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but his cultural references are all things I understand. Mr. Burleson, however, is younger. And lots more brash, coming from a background of sports and sportscasting.
I thought he did a good job when he filled in on “What to Watch,” but boy is he supremely self-confident. I appreciate a little humility in my news faces, and I’m not sure I’m going to get that from Mr. Burleson. I’m thinking they might have wanted to maybe road-test him a little more before moving him to the big chair alongside Gayle King (also my demographic) and Tony Doukoupil, younger and busily populating the planet with his second set of children — which we hear about way more than I want.
Since CBS opted to skip any intermediate step for Mr. Burleson, it seems clear to me that we’re throwing all in for edgy, self-confident — and more youthful. They might as well post a big sign saying, “Thanks for watching, TL, but you’re not bringing us the ratings we need.”
By the time we remark on Mr. Burleson’s predilection for wearing shorts with suitcoats and murmur yet again over Mr. Doukoupil’s toddlers, I feel like we could find ourselves watching the “Nate and Tony Show,” with Ms. King trying to ride herd on a couple of unruly boys. I certainly hope that brings them new viewers, because if that’s what happens, this viewer is O-U-T out.
But if it brings them younger, better viewers, what do they care? I just don’t know that they will get what they want. It feels more like grocery stores, the ones that mistakenly think their shoppers enjoy it when they rearrange all their aisles so that no one can find what they’re looking for.
Trying for more, and younger, viewers on a national network is one thing, but one of my magazines appears to be attempting the same thing — and I find this one more dismaying.
I have been a subscriber to Colorado Central since its inception 30-some years ago. It was founded by Ed and Martha Quillen of Salida, and it chronicles art, history and the current events of the region. They also built a sizable stable of columnists along the way.
At some point the Quillens retired and sold their enterprise to Mike Rosso, who made a fairly seamless transition and has carried on the magazine in familiar fashion. Well, now Mr. Rosso has sold, this time to a young mother who said, in her first paragraph of her introductory issue that arrived last week, that she wants to attract younger readers.
Of course, that makes sense on one level: if you don’t pick up younger readers your audience will eventually dwindle. But something about the way new publisher Cailey McDermott phrased it kind of made it sound like she wants those younger readers at my expense.
I’m sure I’m being overly sensitive, but she did immediately change the typefaces throughout the magazine (not a fan of the “hand-writing” font she used for the letters to the editor) and devote way too much ink to the opening article, which was about traveling across the country with her husband and toddler.
[I don’t really have anything against toddlers, but I do get very tired of Mr. Doukoupil treating his two newest children as national news, and I wasn’t particularly captivated by Ms. McDermott’s cross-country slog that had nothing whatsoever to do with central Colorado. But I’m happy to meet your children/grandchildren/great-granchildren, or admire their pictures.]
What I’m envisioning happening here — perhaps I’m projecting — is what happened with our local bookstore that I no longer set foot in: the young new owner purposefully ran off her entire staff for no reason other than they were “old” and therefore not part of the “vibe” she was seeking. She instead hired women her own youthful age — women who not only didn’t have Stephen King’s newest release, they didn’t even know who Stephen King was.
For the initial issue, at least, Ms. McDermott is keeping her writers and columnists, but her comments about attracting new, younger readers made me realize this stable is aging. And me along with it.
I don’t know how successful either CBS’ or Ms. McDermott’s pushes will be. There are so many options for information these days, and the formats I like may not speak to younger people no matter how youthfully they’re packaged.
In which case, you not only never gain the new audience you’re seeking — you might also lose us undesirable old people along the way. We’ll see. I am willing to give all these youngsters a chance, even if their approaches to change managed to make me feel really old — and not particularly wanted.