Last column acted as a declaration of a new direction: the Concurrent’s focus moving forward is on producing thought-provoking content rather than news reporting or entertainment.
That doesn’t mean this outlet won’t break the occasional story or attempt to find humor in situations with satirical headlines, but what separates this platform from other outlets like Just Wright Citrus or Citrus County Live that already do both these things respectively quite well is the Concurrent’s ability to give you new perspective on the headlines by putting things into context.
This intellectual, informative or humorous value, though, is limited to what the audience receives. When it comes to funding these platforms, the key stakeholder to consider isn’t the audience, but rather the advertisers.
What the advertisers want is your attention fixated on a page that has engaging content but also their brand and a persuasive message with it in hopes that you might remember it along with what you’re reading. That’s it. That’s the primary reason advertisers pay.
There are secondary reasons. For example, John Pepe Insurance, one of the Concurrent’s new advertisers, is doing so in part because he believes in the message of the outlet and wants to see the publication grow. I appreciate this sincerely, but both of us know the primary reason is more important than the secondary reason.
Mike Wright and I are going to meet today at his request, and while it could be about our separate media outreach outlets, more likely it is going to be about getting the candidates I represent through Winsler Consulting (Tod Cloud, Phil Nichols, Ed Spaight and Stacey Worthington) to advertise on his platform.
Understanding value explains why I’m hesitant.
Mike refers to his advertisers as sponsors. This subtle difference in word choice is important because it leads to conclusions like this, “Please support these sponsors, who see value in the discussion taking place here.”
This might be true as a secondary reason, but it does the businesses a potential disservice and the campaigns an actual disservice to suggest that it is the main reason for being associated.
For starters, the discussion leader is an unabashed Democrat. I’m certainly not blindly partisan enough to think that Republicans have a monopoly on good ideas, but there is a reason the two sides have been the dominant parties for roughly 175 years against one another - because they have fundamentally different views of how the world operates.
But it’s about the discussion, not necessarily the discussion leader, that provides the value.
In my experience, strict monitoring of the conversation leads to either a vast majority of responses that mostly agree with the premise or a few outliers who are clearly wrapped in self-interest that they can be properly dismissed with an eye roll.
There is value in the engagement the platform gets, and Mike deserves a lot of credit for that, but this inability to distinguish between the value the audience gets and the value the advertisers want is something I plan to point out in today’s meeting.
Let’s shift to the Chronicle. The paper also had a declaration of new policy on Sunday.
Executive Editor Jeff Bryan wrote, “With that in mind, we’re moving forward with a set of new guidelines for Letters to the Editor. First, for those who continually want to address national issues, we will publish two letters per month. Your letter must focus on one issue or legislation; no blanket rebukes of either party; and; lastly, no name calling.”
The Chronicle knows the value it gets from reader participation, however, and that’s why there was no mention of reform to the sound off section, a place in the paper that is known for blanket rebukes and name calling.
This faux attempt at moral high ground unravels when the reader starts to consider that we want more attributed opinions, even if they don’t rise to the civility standards the Chronicle would prefer, but they are still preferable to anonymous attacks on one another.
The Chronicle won’t change the sound offs, though, and it isn’t because they misunderstand value but rather because they recognize it all too well. The lawless food fight that is the sound off is good for business even as it provides a disservice to the county conversation.
Each publication is finding its own way still, but we have much to consider for the good of the county as we do. Recognizing and distinguishing between categories of value is a good place to start.