Wednesday, June 10, 2009

THE GADFLY: Monetizing Content Redux

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 12:33 AM

monetizing_content2.jpgI admit it; I'm a snoop. I love to see how other people live their lives, not by peeping through their windows (I draw the line at anything that would land me in jail), but by watching the snippets of their lives they see fit to share with us, the great unwashed masses. Which is one of the reasons I love those “see and be seen” party picture magazines that get published periodically, showing the self-appointed Memphis gliterati in all their splendor. Where else, I ask you, can you see so many boob jobs in one place without being there? That's just one reason I call these magazines “boobs on parade.”

But, the really interesting tidbits of other people's lives is on display in the wedding and engagement announcements of the newspaper. Now, I know many of you prefer to read the obituaries, mostly, I suspect, to make sure your name isn't listed. But I find that to be a bit too ghoulish, and also entirely too reminiscent of my own mortality. But, weddings and engagements? Now, there's a celebration, and a major slice, of life I can relate to.

I find the announcements that appear in our local paper to be particularly amusing. It used to be, back before every conceivable bit of newspaper content (including the electronic kind) had to be monetized, that weddings and engagements, along with births and deaths, were considered “vital statistics,” which were published as a public service by the newspaper. Hence the term “newspaper of record.” Many newspapers still treat these kinds of announcements that way, to the extent that the New York Times insists, as part of its announcement policy, that each of the blissful couple's prior divorces be listed. How's that for throwing a wet rag on the festivities? But not our local paper. They've figured out how to treat wedding and death announcements like car ads. Column inches are column dollars, so pretty much whatever you want to submit for publication in the way of wedding/death announcements is OK with them. The result: malapropisms, typos and the occasional elimination of the identity (or even existence) of one of the bride's (or groom's) parents. Apparently, quite a few test tube babies get married.

I get a particularly big kick out of the differences between the announcements in our local paper and the ones that appear in the New York Times. To appear in the Times, one or both of the happy couple must have at least one degree (and preferably more) from an Ivy League school, be a doctor, lawyer or investment banker and have at least one parent who's written the Great American Novel. To appear in our local paper, one or both of the celebrants must have attended Ole Miss and be employed by FedEx or one of our ubiquitous hospitals. And it doesn't really matter who their parents are, unless, of course, one of them happens to be a preacher. The Times doesn't care where the couple honeymoon, or where they're taking up housekeeping, but that information is de rigeur in the local announcements. After all, more info = more column inches.

I'm sorry if that comparison makes me come across like a snob (what can I say?). Either of my marriage announcements, had they been submitted for publication, would have fallen short by the Times' standards. But the second one would have been worthy (in my opinion), if only for the fact that the wedding “reception” was held at the soda fountain of the Wiles-Smith Drug Store in Midtown. See, I told you I was a snob.

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