Lame of Thrones: What the Royal Wedding Says About Our Damaged Media Culture
A peculiar statistic came out at the end of last week. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, only 6 percent of Americans have been following news about tomorrow's royal wedding very closely, while only 22 percent are following it somewhat closely. In other words, only about a quarter of Americans care even marginally that, in about 24 hours, Prince William is set to marry his fiancée, Kate Middleton.
What's peculiar isn't that people are interested at all, of course—well, that's not what's most peculiar—what's peculiar is that you'd never be able to tell how few people are interested in Will and Kate if you've been paying attention to the press.
Search for "the royal wedding" on Google right now and, even after applying the "United States" regional filter, you'll still come up with nearly 80 million results. The New York Times has written about the royal wedding, as have the Washington Post, BoingBoing, Gawker, the New Yorker, New York, the Village Voice, and the LA Weekly. CNN, the Today show, Good Morning America, and E! will be broadcasting live from the event. Even GOOD, like Slate, has written about why you shouldn't pay attention to the garish parties of the monarchs.
In fact, if you can find a notable media outlet that hasn't covered the royal wedding, we'll send you a GOOD T-shirt.
All that is to say there appears to be a striking disparity between what Americans say they want and what the media is giving them. The question now becomes whether people are lying—saying they're uninterested in Will and Kate while actually devouring royal nuptials content every chance they get—or if the media is simply ignoring the interests of the majority in the hopes of drawing the attention of a fraction of the minority.
If you're in Vegas and you're told that your odds of winning a particular game are 28 percent, you likely don't play that game. So why are so many U.S. media outlets staking literally tens of thousands of dollars on covering something only 28 percent of people say they're just slightly interested in?
If you've been consistently ignoring the royal wedding, and all the while asking yourself, "What kind of people read this stuff?" know that you're not alone. Also know, however, that what you should instead be asking is, "Who decides people should read this stuff?"
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