The Waste of Mass Media

Yesterday I made a post on weight discrimination. As I was doing my research for that post I ran across this provocative ad:

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As a detail-oriented person I had a lot of questions when I first saw this. How are all of the magazines so perfectly arranged? Did people really throw those in there? If I see one I like can I take it?

Anyway, the ad got my attention, and I decided to look up “nedic” (printed in the bottom left corner). Google revealed that NEDIC stands for the Canada-based National Eating Disorder Information Centre – a non-profit organization aimed at helping to inform the public about eating disorders. Here is a close up of the text in the ad:

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Some people didn’t like the ad, but I do. I think it’s really creative. Advertisements are hard because you have 30 seconds, or one billboard, or one page in a magazine to get your message across. So advertisements don’t have the time or space to hit all of their pros or counterattack all of their cons. They have to pick a focus.

For example, some people saw this ad and said, “Well that’s just silly to blame fashion magazines. They are just a small part of the anorexia problem.”

But these people are missing the focus that the advertisers specifically picked out for this ad. Sure, fashion magazines aren’t solely responsible for the spread of anorexia, but they are definitely a part of the problem. So the NEDIC advertisers decided to focus on magazines for this particular ad.

Even my blog has a focus: “beauty in our society.” Can you imagine doing a blog on “Everything” from photography, to travel, to cooking, to politics, to drawing, to fashion, etc.  Sometimes you have to focus your energies in order to do the job justice.

So kudos to NEDIC for this 2010 ad (3 years late oops).

Now, according to dailylife.com.au, NEDIC complemented this ad with a “gift package” sent out to different fashion houses and magazines. Inside each goody bag was a t-shirt and a thank you card:

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Wow. So that was a bit risky. Some might say that went too far. But, sometimes the point of ads are just to get people talking. Like this 2013 ad from Answers in Genesis (a Christian organization):

billboard-times-square

That’s a risky ad. And Answers in Genesis knew that this billboard alone wouldn’t convert anyone to Christianity on the spot. But they knew it would make people talk. And they knew it would drive people to their website listed at the bottom of the billboard where they have more time and space to explain their message (Ken Ham confirmed this in his blog: “A New Atheist Billboard?” ).

I don’t mean to get into advertising, but I think NEDIC was following this approach as well. I mean here I am looking up the NEDIC website three years later.

So, what is the central message of the NEDIC ad? Magazines are HELPING to create negative body image and unrealistic “goal body weights.”  If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, right?

I think that’s the main issue. Magazines have so much potential to be part of the solution, yet they all just follow the same problematic path because it’s safe, and they know it well. Too well. I think all celebrity magazines use the same 30 article titles on rotation: “10 TIPS TO LOOK YOUNGER,” “KIM KARDASHIAN’S NEW MAN,” “20 TIPS TO LOSE THE LAST 20 POUNDS,” “DOES HE REALLY WANT YOU? TAKE THE QUIZ TO FIND OUT!”

Honestly reading the covers of magazines is maddeningly annoying. It’s like a small child screaming the same fragments at you over and over again while holding up a picture of Kim Kardashian. Can they not think of something new and creative? Why are they all content to stay in a rut that is boring to read and harmful to girls’ self esteems.

What if the fashion & celebrity magazine movement finally shifted in a different direction? What if all of the celebrity and fashion magazines held a conference and agreed to clean up their act. If I were invited to this conference these would be my TOP 5 TIPS TO BEING A BETTER MAGAZINE!

1. Use famous and non-famous girls as models, photographers, writers, makeup artists, stylists, etc. Give girls a chance to contribute to what they’re reading and looking at.

2. Dress your cover models in less revealing clothes. Honestly I don’t mind a mini skirt or a strapless dress. This is a fashion magazine after all. But sometimes the clothes are just ridiculous. If you keep revealing yourself to anybody and everybody, pretty soon you will have nothing left to reveal, and your relationship with your current or future significant other will no longer feel special.

3. Freaking smile on the cover already. If I had a nickel for every ‘sexy smolder’ I’ve seen on a magazine cover I’d buy myself a spot on the cover of InStyle magazine, and I would smile my biggest smile no matter how many times they told me to “look pensive.” And I guarantee you that would be their number one seller. I mean which of these magazine covers would you rather buy?

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4. Stop using the same 30 article ideas. This has already been addressed above. But I’m so tired of the top 10 tips to get a better body, make guys want me, and do my makeup better. Besides, that’s all on the internet now anyway.

5. Use girls of all different races, sizes, religious backgrounds, and cultural backgrounds. I mean everyone. I want to see everything from XXS to XXXL. I want to see muslims, christians, and buddhists. I want to see Africans, Europeans, Latinos and Americans. Teach us about other cultures. Teach us to see things from other people’s points of view.

I decided to to present just one example (sorry again to my sister Melissa for using her picture without permission):

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So that’s pretty bad. I hope no graphic design majors see this. I was going for a more informative magazine cover. In all fairness it was done through ‘Preview’ on my mac. I know, I’m cringing too. But here’s the point: mass media is wasted on entertainment.

Mass Media is a powerful entity that  could be used to inform, but instead the majority of it is used to entertain.

Have you ever thought ‘What if I could speak to everyone in the United States or the world for just half an hour? Or what if I could write a single two-page letter to them? What would I say?’

Well, magazines, newspapers, television shows, movies, and online publications have an enormous slice of that opportunity (This wiki page shows that most paid circulations alone reach into the millions). And you want to know what a lot of them use it on? Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian.

Why? Because evidently that’s what’s in demand. Internet users spend the majority of their time on Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram looking up memes and pictures.

In November of 2013 ebizmba.com updated the top ten global websites. Want to know some sites that were on this list? YouTube (#2), Facebook (#3), Twitter (#10), and Pinterest (#15).  The rest are mainly search engines.

Using mass media for entertainment is fine, we all need a break sometimes. But this should be more like 15-20% of our mass media intake. Not 90-95%. So, because I really believe in using mass media to inform and educate, here are my favorite educational sites. This is proof that the internet – even sites like YouTube – can be used to inform and to educate.

1. Free courses from Harvard, MIT, Berkeley and a number of other colleges and universities. This is an amazing opportunity to learn from some of the greatest professors in the U.S. for free.

edx.org (free courses from a variety of colleges)

ocw.mit.edu (free courses from MIT OpenCourseWare or visit the front page for more options)

oyc.yale.edu (open courses from Yale)

2. YouTube Crash Course  (AWESOME. This channel has short, well-made videos that take you through our entire world history. The videos are entertaining and informative. They also have separate video series on Chemistry, Biology, Literature, and Ecology.)

3. Learn a Language:

 livemocha.com

 lang-8.com

duolingo.com

4. TEDx (so many awesome videos – here is a link to a top ten TEDx video list)

5. Watch documentaries for free!

topdocumentaryfilms.com

documentaryheaven.com

6. iTunes U (free podcasts on a variety of subjects  that you can listen to while you run, cook or clean!)

There are a ton of educational sites, magazines, books, television shows, and films out there (here’s an extensive list). Don’t let them get buried under the flood of entertainment sites, magazines, books, television shows, and films.

And mass media, don’t waste your potential. Find out what the public needs to know, and report it through articles, videos, magazines, photos, podcasts, etc., making sure that the content is important, relative, helpful, informative, interesting, creative, honest, clear, concise, and fact-based. Easy, right?

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5 thoughts on “The Waste of Mass Media

  1. Fantastic blog post with a lot of good facts and quotes! I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. Good post! I am curious as to how those fashion magazines reacted to NEDIC’s campaign.

  3. Then hopefully that means they didn’t do anything drastic like suing. =)

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