Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes: The Short Head and The Weather

I tend not to be a big broadcast news/broad sheet reader (at least during the week). However, the TV is usually on in the morning and I’ll catch the end of the local broadcast before one of the main morning shows kicks in with its top stories. Earlier this morning – in the wake of the ‘Quake of 8/23/11 (never forget!) – I quipped quickly on the state of what it is like to be a news broadcaster these days:

Now, a few hours later, I actually see there is a little bit of truth in that, and it can explain a small bit of where broad-scale mass media is these days. I’ve spouted off more than a few posts on the value of the long tail, but this could be the first time I attempt to discuss the “Short Head” i.e. the opposite site of this chart.

Mass media needs to appeal to the broadest mass of people. It was the invent of cheap/free publishing in form of the Internet and those communities that started to allow smaller and smaller groups to begin to connect to each other in the same away. That’s the long tail – the more specific you get, the less people there are interested in a topic, in a limit that more or less approaches infinity. So, across a completely diverse audience – and the top of network morning shows probably do attract among the more diverse groups from a demographic perspective – people have less in common. That’s the head of the beast. And at the top, where the least is in common, it is more and more likely the only thing in which the audience shares a common interest is what is happening from the sky.

Which is what brings us to non-stop weather coverage from our favorite networks. They have the broad audience, and it is insensitive to use “lowest common denominator”, but that’s the mentality. It’s probably better to call it the “most common common denominator” – but that’s how the Short Head works.

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