Bob Garfield’s “Life as a Toaster Oven”
Bob Garfield, co-host of National Public Radio’s weekly “On the Media” magazine program and Ad Age columnist, spoke at the Wilson School on March 5, 2012, as part of the School’s “Media and Public Policy” thematic lecture series.
Garfield, whose talk was titled, “My Life as a Toaster Oven,” was introduced to the audience by Hugh Price, lecturer and John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs & Co. Visiting Professor at th e Wilson School. Price noted that Garfield was a “ubiquitous presence in contemporary media and a student of the sprawling and rapidly evolving media enterprise in all of its permutations.” With Garfield’s “On the Media” program being heard on over 300 public radio stations nationwide, Price noted that the program is “a habit forming one for all who care about the increasingly peripheral role of the media in the public square in the U.S. and worldwide.”
Price went on to say that Garfield looks at the media’s role in society with the utmost seriousness without taking himself too seriously. And with that introduction Garfield took the audience on a unique journey using humor and a power point presentation to discuss his “life as a toaster oven.” Over the past decade, Garfield has chronicled the digital revolution and the collapse of the traditional media landscape. As a longtime “traditional” type media person, he compared himself to the toaster oven – “useful but largely obsolete by technology.”
He noted that there has been a tectonic technological shift in journalism with consequences that are akin to the industrial revolution – with the advent of more than 1,000 cable stations, Playstation, Wii, 200 million websites, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media networks. Garfield believes that people are consuming more “stuff” than ever before which is being carved up into smaller and smaller pieces.
Garfield described the digital revolution’s impact on traditional media’s revenue sources, noting that a blogger currently has the same access to an audience as Rupert Murdoch and at very little cost.
This technological shift has enabled audiences to skip past commercials in the same way that one chooses to ignore spam, or click only on ads they are interested in online. This has resulted in a serious revenue loss for traditional media and broadcasters can no longer produce quality programming.
More choice is wonderful, Garfield noted, but what is being lost is critical mass – the ability for anyone to have a strong enough voice amid all the deafening noise of the crowd to make a difference. However, Garfield noted that the same forces that are destroying mass media marketing are also the ones creating “the most exciting, inclusive, democratized times in human history.”
To view the entire discussion: