Adorno writes in two writings this week of how the culture industry “impresses the same stamp on everything” and perpetuates the status quo. I can see how this is still true, at least in some people’s opinion. In many ways, our TV shows, movies, books, news stories, etc., offer a few variances on similar themes over and over and over again. (When you’ve got to make money on a movie and you've find a formula that sells, why vary?)
But I wonder about today’s niched, networked society and what Adorno would say about that. In the media business, we focus on our generalized and niched audiences. On the one hand, the Lincoln Journal Star has to serve a very general audience. We are supposed to provide news and information that interests and is relevant to all the people of Lincoln, Neb., whether that reader is an 86-year-old lifelong Nebraskan or a 20-year-old UNL student who recently moved here from out of state, or anyone in between.
So in addition we provide products that serve niched audiences in hopes of reaching more specific audiences with news (and advertising) they want. So we offer sports and health magazines and other special sections. We used to produce a Spanish-language newspaper. However, one of the most important aspects of these niche products, at least to the Journal Star bottom line: keeping these products profitable. Some are; some aren’t.
Another challenge: In a networked world, if the major media companies don’t or can’t provide this news, someone else will. If you’re a 20-year-old Lincolnite with a huge interest in the most cutting-edge dance music now being played at the biggest clubs in New York City (for example), you can find blogs and information all over the web for that; you can find all the right people with all the right knowledge on Twitter and Facebook. You don’t need to find that news in the Lincoln Journal Star. And often these bloggers (or tweeters or Facebook friends) are (usually) blogging or writing for free, so they don’t have to worry about staying profitable.
(I use that example for a reason. When I spoke to a journalism class about my work in the Journal Star’s features sections, one person in the class urged me to include more news about New York City’s dance-club scene. That, he said, would make him buy the paper. Further proof that we can’t keep everyone happy all the time.)
So I guess the question is: Do niche news / information providers mean that the culture industry these days isn’t so much about toeing the line? Or does the ever-present need for most media providers to stay profitable perpetuate the status quo?