I freely admit watching the business channel too much and reading the business pages more closely than a normal human might. Part of the appeal is watching CEOs, CFOs and CIOs say things they clearly feel compelled to say but that are nevertheless absurd.
We believe this merger of two equals will give us greater economies of scale and let us better leverage our hidden value and drive down prices for consumers.
OK then. “Merger” more often than not is a euphemism for takeover, and rarely does the transaction involve two equals. The fuzzy language is about soothing the egos of the party being sold. “Leverage” as a verb doesn’t make you sound as smart as you think it does.
And then, when A is buying B so A will have a bigger share of the market and one less competitor, they always throw in that gratuitous line about how we the consumer will somehow save money. That of course is not the point at all. Markets over time tend toward fewer and fewer players, that is, toward oligopoly or even monopoly – the entire purpose of which is to control product, pricing and profit.
As I say, I dive in a bit much, and this carries moral risks. America indulges in all sorts of idolatry, but the worship of money is still No. 1 by a mile. A good citizen pays attention to the world around him, but getting drawn too deeply into the soap opera of the money changers can lead one to what they use to call “the occasion of sin.” It can be a fine line.
The business channel had a media executive on the other day, talking about whether Disney or Comcast will end up with 20th Century Fox. This only matters to people who watch TV or go to movies.
He chatted amiably. These folks need more content, he said.
Friends, we crossed a sad boundary when we – my industry included – started using “content” with a straight face instead of talking about actual, tangible things such as newspaper articles, movies, books, photographs, podcasts, TV shows, radio programs, billboards, CDs, tattoos and matchbook covers. You know, stuff imparting information, entertainment or advertising. Blurring the distinctions among those three isn’t helping matters either.
Then he dropped this one.
“At the end of the day, the consumer’s in control.”
You know, he almost had me up to that moment. The consumer is in control. Only on the most abstract plane of human imagination is the consumer in control. We get choices, usually not so many and not so cheap. That’s not the same as being in control.
He said another thing. He kept talking about how these companies need “content assets.”
Again, with a straight face.
Then it hit me. I guess I’m a content asset. I’ve been contenting away for 34 years now. Not a whole lot of hidden value has been leveraged or accreted to my bottom line. I certainly don’t feel as if I’m in control.
– Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or email@example.com. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.