Clicking for anger isn’t new

We believe that the use of disgust and anger to create ‘engagement’ is new. It’s not. These polls from a 1946 book about radio and advertising surprised me.

First an unsurprising poll on general attitudes:

Radio was slightly more favorable than newspapers, and local government was lowest on the approval scale.

Another unsurprise:

The Fairness Doctrine worked, and people recognized and appreciated it. These percentages are extreme.

Surprises:

These are more subtle. Annoyance and excellence both rise with increased listening.  Which way is the causation? Do people dislike radio but listen anyway? Do they have firmer opinions, contradictory or not, when they are more familiar with radio?  Do they listen because they enjoy the anger? (Modern version of engagement) Or is the expression of dislike just something they feel obliged to say?

Toward the end the author picks the last choice, though he doesn’t quite say it. He finds that the upper castes are more critical, while the lower castes are more likely to enjoy radio.

After all, radio is a mass medium. The greatest part of the population belongs to the group which has been classified here as less educated. Through program ratings and through common sense the broadcaster knows what the large majority of people like and, as a result, this majority is actually more suited by the radio offerings than the more highly educated minority.

The latter, through formal education and a more fortunate course of life, have acquired a greater sophistication of taste, a greater range of experience, and more initiative in choosing what is to their liking. It is the more articulate and the intellectually more mobile person who is more likely to be critical of radio.

In other words, the upper caste sees radio as a Negative Externality, “contaminated” by advertising for peasant products.

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See also.

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