Sports, Television, Music, Politics – Cultural Cohesion in a Climate of Division
History (so they say) repeats itself. While in some instances this might bring about the comfort of cyclical certainty, in others – as we near a new roaring 20’s with what looks to be thematic similarity to all the economic boom and political chaos of the last – this can prove, shall we say, disheartening.
Businesses walk a fine line in such times of social unrest. Between Brexit, recent American mass shootings (amongst a host of issues at hand), and ongoing social movements from climate change to #metoo as well as their respective backlashes, companies try to walk a neutral line to keep their money where their mouths are: ideally, everywhere.
Their legitimate role, however, has always been far more complicated – and in a peak attention economy where consumers spend over half of their allocable free time on entertainment prospects, from video to sports to music to news, there is even less room for businesses to distinguish themselves and their propositions from the greater global conversations at hand. They have captured consumer attention; now, in an increasingly competitive environment, they must cater to it.
The easy excuse is, nominatively, that entertainment should be a distraction from the troubles around us. A recent sports editorial for the Wall Street Journal captures the conflict potently: the mantra from both business-minded superiors and angry consumers who want their fun is “stick to sports”, and let politics be the domain of the politicians.
However, consumers are not paying attention to the politicians anymore – they are paying attention to their favourite teams and TV shows, and however much they might be seeking distraction, they are also seeking hope, and the stories that give them the metaphorical, character-driven guidelines to navigate a collective course through confusion and calamity.
Sports has never been insulated from politics; as the editorial goes , “Athletes have habitually championed causes that were unpopular in their day. Some of our most celebrated sports heroes were pilloried in their primes, because they told people what they didn’t want to hear.”
Music has long been at the forefront of social change, and, despite ups and downs with rights holders, creators and distributors, remains “important to the lives” of 67% of consumers. No matter what the business model is around music, it will continue to be made and communicate directly to the hearts and minds of millions, by definition reflecting the world, and the real issues, around them.
And it is no coincidence that our television tropes reflect zeitgeist fears; look no further than Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, which thematically persists fifty years later in a wide number of shows and films.
The digital world has made digital content forefront in consumers’ lives, hearts and minds. Whether or not this is a good thing is subjective – the reality is, consumer will shall shape the corporate responses (no matter what Zuckerberg has to say about it), and in order to truly tap into audiences, successful propositions have always and will continue to reflect and respond to the “big picture” issues they try to distinguish themselves from in business practice. Our distractions are also our comforts, and have become the cohesive forces we need to bond over in a world of increasingly stark divisions.
This article highlights some findings from MIDiA’s upcoming report, The Post-Peak Attention Economy | What’s Next for Entertainment? Keep your eyes on the space for further updates, or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.