. . . Wednesday November 24, 2004

The Real News About Jon Stewart

Another study has been released that suggests that a lot of young people are turning Jon Stewart into their primary source of news. When asked who they trust the most to inform them about politics, 16% said The Daily Show. The only one of the network anchors to top Stewart in this category was the decidedly unfunny Tom Brokaw and he’s on the way out. Rather was way back at 10% (which I think is a factor in his departure).

Aside from Brokaw, Stewart was only defeated (and soundly at that) by the most trusted phrase at the intersection of news and politics: None of the Above.

I’m not sure how many people really think of Stewart’s fake news as their most trusted source. A lot of it has to do with the context of the questions and the context of the answerers. It so happens that Comedy Central goes a lot better with beer bongs and toga parties than Peter Jennings does. A lot of college students probably skew these numbers. And most of them grew up in the cable generation. They’re used to watching the news when they want to (CNN, MSNBC, the web) and not when it happens to be on.

I think there is another important question raised by this story. And again, the right answer is None of the Above. The question? Which of the four major networks had the ability to see what was so plainly obvious to television viewers and the couch potato elite?

None of them. That’s why the guy who we all knew would dominate late night if given the chance found himself at Comedy Central while dudes like Kimmel have their own shows on the networks. It was an epic mistake. And it wasn’t a rare one by network executives. That’s why the exodus from the network news broadcasts is being mirrored by an exodus from the networks’ entertainment offerings.

If you are a network and Comedy Central is crushing you in terms of influencing and attracting a valuable segment of the viewing audience, you’ve got major problems.

In this multi-channel world, merit is starting to rise to the top. That’s good news for us. It’s bad news for the corporate giants who have historically never really needed to take that variable into account.

Concentration is important!