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Smerconish Blames “Pro-Wrestling” Approach to News for D.C Divisions

Smerconish said the rise of hosts like Rush Limbaugh and others of his same ilk changed the business model, shifting focus away from local hosts to nationally syndicated ones.

Jacob Conley

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Photo by IVN News CC BY 2.0

Media personality Michael Smerconish took to Twitter early Wednesday morning to share his thoughts about what and who was driving the deep partisanship in Washington D.C.:  The professional wrestling approach to news, fathered by Rush Limbaugh and followed by many others.

Smerconish teased his revelation on Twitter with a link to his website that contained an extended nine minute clip from Smerconish’s recent documentary, The Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking. In a post to his website, which has since been deleted, Smerconish urges readers to purchase the entire full length documentary, but “this nine minute clip is the most important to show how the media is driving the partisanship in Washington”. The clip can still be found on Facebook.

“When I first started out in radio 30 years ago, (hosts’) personality mattered, not ideology,” Smerconish said in the clip. “They weren’t on air because of a political perspective but because they could tell stories.”

Smerconish said the rise of hosts like Limbaugh and others of his same ilk changed the business model, shifting focus away from local hosts to nationally syndicated ones.

“When I was getting started, AM radio was in trouble, FM was taking over,” Smerconish said. “AM radio needed a savior and they found it in Rush Limbaugh… Conservatives rightfully felt shutout of the mainstream media and he is a gifted showman who filled that void and created this clubhouse for conservatives.”

While Smerconish believes that Limbaugh provided a needed voice for conservatives, he and similar radio and TV hosts that followed changed the political climate in Washington.

“When Fox News came along in 1996 and later MSNBC, they took a page from that playbook,” he said. “Now the business model was toned down to entertainment masked as news. It’s like professional wrestling, good for ratings, good for revenue bad for the country. You have good guy vs bad guys, constant conflict and a predetermined outcome.”

Smerconish concludes that the pro wrestling approach to news is the major driving force between the political divisions within the United States.

“The media has moved to extremes,” he said. “The rise of polarization in Washington directly correlates with the changes in broadcasting I am describing. Pre-Limbaugh, 60 percent of the House and Senate were comprised of moderates. By 2010, every Senate Republican was more conservative than every Senate Democrat and every Senate Democrat was more liberal than every Senate Republican. In the 1970’s, members of Congress would vote with his or her party about 60 percent of the time. Now the typical member of Congress votes with their party more than 90 percent of the time.”

The clip ends with Smerconish claiming that while there were many factors that caused this change, media was the driving force behind it.

“Look, I’m not trying to blame this all on the media,” he said. “Social media is an issue. The beer muscles that come from anonymity online has fueled incivility and polarization, but mostly this is what happens when Washington takes its ques from those with microphones and not the vast majority of the people. When politicians follow the modern era pro-wrestling approach to news, the nation suffers. For that to change, people need to change the channel.”

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Media Business

Meta Uses AI to Get Around Apple’s Privacy Regulations

In August, Meta launched Advantage+, a tool that uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate multiple advertisements…

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Meta has been pursuing efforts to adapt its advertising strategy using AI and machine learning technology. This is in response to Apple’s privacy policy which does not allow companies to harvest user data without their permission. Meta has said it lost around $10bn in revenue in the nine months after Apple rolled out its privacy changes in April 2021.

“Driven by powerful machine learning, Advantage+ app campaigns deliver the highest performing creative to the most relevant audience on the most effective placements,” the Facebook Help Center states.

Meta has been investing heavily in applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to navigate advertising challenges. This is to overcome the restrictions introduced by Apple two years ago that force apps to get permission to track users and serve them personalized ads, according to The Financial Times. 

Before Apple’s new policy, Meta allowed advertisers to target users on the Facebook and Instagram apps based on their behavior and data collected from users’ online activities outside the platform. Meta also tracked people’s demographic characteristics such as age and gender to improve ad accuracy. 

In August, Meta launched Advantage+, a tool that uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate multiple advertisements according to the specific objectives of the marketer. For example, if the goal is to make a sale or gain a new follower. 

Advantage+ runs tests of potential ads and selects what they deem most effective, with the option to automatically alter text and images. 

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Media Business

Hubbard, NAB Study: First Party Data Increases Listening

“There are opportunities for us to engage with our registered streaming audience by segmenting them and executing strategies focused on their past listening behaviors.”

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The NAB Pilot Accelerator study conducted by Hubbard Radio, in partnership with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), shows how radio stations can leverage first-party data of listeners to increase listening and time spent. 

This means analyzing the available personal data of listeners, like email addresses used to sign up for subscriptions. Hubbard has a long history of collecting key user info via its websites, live players, and mobile apps. The company holds eight years’ worth of listening sessions history and time spent associated with individual user accounts, all of which have an email address tied to them, according to Inside Radio.

“There are opportunities for us to engage with our registered streaming audience by segmenting them and executing strategies focused on their past listening behaviors,” Hubbard said in NAB’s First-Party Data Direct-to-Consumer Accelerator report.

Hubbard concluded that its first-party database helps the company identify who is listening, and listening patterns overall. “We have a huge opportunity to nurture relationships with those listeners to keep them engaged with our stations,” Hubbard says.

Although access to personal data may open doors for broadcasters, this type of data collection remains a controversial issue among Americans. In a study released in 2022 by the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans reported feeling that all, almost all, or most of what they do online or while using their cellphone is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms, or other companies.

The NAB Pilot Accelerator study was reportedly initiated to address the phasing out of third-party cookies by the digital advertising industry. 

Broadcast radio and the TV industry is projected to lose $2.1 billion in digital ad revenue annually – or 6.3% of total ad revenue – with the elimination of cookies, according to a Borrell Associates study commissioned by PILOT and presented at NAB Show New York last fall.

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FEMA Says AM Radio is Vital to U.S Safety

“When all else fails, radio stations are often the last line of communications that communities have.”

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Seven former FEMA officials have sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, asking the federal government to help keep AM radios in electric vehicles. The group is petitioning the government to seek assurances from automakers to maintain AM radios in EVs, arguing that AM radio transmitters are vital to the federal National Public Warning System.

“When all else fails, radio stations are often the last line of communications that communities have,” former FEMA head Craig Fugate, a signer of the letter, told The Wall Street Journal.

Ford and Tesla have removed AM radios in newer electric models. The automakers reasoning behind removing AM radio is that electric vehicles generate electromagnetic frequencies on the same wavelength as AM radio signals and this causes a buzzing sound interference.

The letter to government officials addresses the severity of removing this communication mechanism from EVs, “Should this continue, it will represent a grave threat to future local, state, and federal disaster response and relief efforts.”

According to FEMA, more than 75 radio stations, most of which are AM signals and cover 90% of the U.S. population, have backup equipment that allows them to stay on the air during and after an emergency.

“Federal law mandates that FEMA always maintain its ability to deliver messages to the American people en masse. The National Public Warning System, the only method the government has to reach every point of the country at once, allows it to do so,” the letter continues.

Antwane Johnson, the director of FEMA’s emergency-warning system, said that removing AM radio in EVs could affect the ability of people to receive critical public safety information while in their vehicles.

“AM radio has been tested over and over during the most devastating natural disasters—and has withstood them all,” Johnson told WSJ.

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