Consultant: Target Viewer ‘Self-Centered, Myopic and Terrified’

By Mark Joyella 

Remember “Michelle,” the cardboard cutout “viewer” on display in the lobby of WSPA? The idea, to serve as a daily reminder of the person “you want watching your newscasts, your stories,” turns out to be well known to some of you.

One journalist told Jim Romenesko “Michelle” is a consultant’s example of the “female switchable,” which means a woman in the coveted 25-54 demo who samples different stations but hasn’t committed to one yet. And the consultant’s description of Michelle may reveal more about what consultants think of viewers, than the viewers themselves:

[He] describes her as a mother short on logic but long on social media obsession, terrified of her neighbors, needing constant updates on the weather and consumer trends, with the attention span of a fourth-grader and much less understanding of the greater world around her. She wants “lists,” wants to know how things “affect her.” She’s self-centered, myopic and terrified.

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Stanford communications professor James Hamilton says using Michelle as a guide to what you cover and how you cover it doesn’t, you know, mean doing responsible journalism:

There are certain stories that people need to know as citizens, but they don’t want to know as consumers. And so to the degree that you have market-driven news, individually people may be happier—more sports, less school board—but collectively as a community you may end up having officials who are less accountable because there’s less scrutiny.