Over at Tumblr I posted this quote from Rob Walker about Mad Men: “At this point I think the only interesting thing about Mad Men (to me) is the disconnect between the amount of attention it gets from the media and marketing crowd, and the number of people who actually watch it.” I’ve stated publicly that I’m not crazy about the show and am always interested in places where media attention and actual popularity are misaligned.
The quote got a very interesting response that made me scratch my head a bit, “The interesting part is that so many people still cling to the broadcast paradigm assumption that media attention is directly related to popularity. The value of a creative product as a topic of discussion isn’t necessarily attached to the value of the same product as entertainment.”
It’s really that second sentence that made me think. Most of us have been trained to think that there is little value in discussion that doesn’t lead to action, and while I still think that’s true in a broad sense, there are clearly softer measures and value to the publicity of the show in-and-of-itself that have nothing to do with whether people actually ever tune in. Ultimately attention needs to be connected to popularity for the show to continue to exist and AMC or any television station to stay in business (at least in a medium where eyeballs equal dollars). Now there are certainly longer term benefits to the attention and coverage, but these are just proxies for popularity like DVD sales down the road and viewers for AMC as a whole. Anyway, just thinking out loud, that’s all.