The Dangers of Narrowcasting

Disagreement between sistersSometimes I think we’ve lost our ability to disagree with each other. Not in the abstract, but personally. (When was the last time someone of a different political orientation graced your table?)

We’ve grown accustomed to fine-tuning our newsfeeds to receive just the news we want to hear or read, rather than the multiple viewpoints that would, whether we agree with the opinions or not, force us to think at least briefly of someone else’s take on the world.

David Carr, writing in The New York Times, calls this a gerrymandering of news. And I think he’s right.

Many of us lament the way politics is being conducted in America, and the way nothing seems to get done because no one wants to give in. Well, that’s a result of too narrowly focusing on what you want to hear rather than listening to what might be uncomfortable but might also have truth.

This is important to consider as you build your platform and create an audience. Certainly you want to appeal to people with what you say and offer. And certainly you hope to get a lot of like-minded people to support you and eventually to buy what you’re selling (your book and your services).

But that doesn’t mean you should pander to your audience. I believe this happens when we know what we write will be greeted with enthusiasm, when we have built our crowd of followers and speak just to them. But this doesn’t expand your audience, not really. It preaches to the converted, which can become a kind of intellectual drudgery.

Don’t be afraid to be controversial. Don’t be afraid to offer your opinion, even if it might be unpopular. If you back it up with your facts, your conviction and your ability to weigh options, you’ll find your writing that much more powerful. A lot of people simply do not want to hear or read dissenting opinions. That’s a bit sad. We may have arrived at a point where we can customize what we want to hear about in terms of news or opinion, but what does that gain us?

I don’t know if it’s too late to change this increasingly narrow approach to information gathering, dissemination and processing. But it would be a lonely planet indeed if everyone simply to please people who already agree with one’s opinion. Where’s the fun in that?

Your book should represent you, certainly. But that doesn’t mean you want to turn away or belittle those with whom you disagree. If we don’t agree to disagree, then we risk being smug, and losing the intellectual curiosity that drives innovation.

Categories: Audience, Marketing, Writing

Bob Hughes
Author: Bob Hughes
Robert J. Hughes ("Bob") was a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal for over a decade, specializing in culture reporting. He was the paper's theater reporter, wrote on publishing, the art and auction markets, television, music, film and philanthropy, and reviewed books.
  • KirstenNelson

    This is great, scary advice. :)

  • Amy B.

    Thanks for this challenging post. Our culture (U.S) does not cultivate critical thinking so much as reactivity. Those who learn critical thinking skills tend to value learning from people of differing perspectives. It’s difficult not to fall into land mines when discussing controversial topics with people of other opinions. Difficult to be winsome and challenging.