The Impact of MTV

A lot of people were talking about MTV’s big 25-year anniversary this week–though not MTV, since they don’t want to remind their 14-year-old prime audience that they’ve been around so long…

If you didn’t catch it, NPR’s Talk of the Nation did a great show on the meaning of MTV and it’s impact on society and culture. You can find a link to the story, with an audio file and lot’s of supporting information at this link. It’s well worth the listen. Two of my favorite snippets:

1. MTV, despite its name, has perhaps had a greater impact on society with its introduction of Reality shows, than its music videos–notwithstanding its music successes, including its service as a vehicle for rap to hit the mainstream, along with black pop artists.

2. MTV doesn’t age. Every year they spend a lot of resources researching their 12-18 year-old target audience and tweaking their content, such that every 4-year cycle of high schoolers will no longer resonate with MTV by the time they graduate from college. They of course have launched parallel channels to hold on to some viewers, but at the core, they have a single-minded focus on their primary audience.

There are some troubling aspects to MTV’s success, exemplified today by the disturbing implications of the runaway success of shows like "The Hills". But that’s another thread. What’s interesting to me, good or bad, is the ability of a media institution to have such a tremendous impact on our culture, and this is a decent overview by NPR.

Speaking of which, I’m quite impressed by NPR’s production quality. They make very effective use of the Internet to augment their stories, by adding useful supporting content and outtakes they can’t fit into the broadcast. It’s not the fluffy crap you usually find as extra material–like on most DVDs–but information that expands the experience. Great stuff.


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