One of the things people have always believed about modern media is that video beats audio and audio beats the written word. Before the rise of “new media” on the internet, this meant television was better than radio and radio better than newspapers. In the internet age, the assumption now is that live streamers have greater reach than podcasters and podcasters have a greater reach than bloggers. Mixed in there are people who exist only as entities on social media platforms.
One reason for this assumption is youth culture. In liberal democracy, the young are treated like gods, in the same way novel social ideas are treated as gifts from the gods, so whatever young people like is heralded as pure and beautiful. Young people, especially children, are first drawn to images, then sounds and finally as they mature into adults, the written word. In modern liberal democracies, therefore, video platforms are treated like sacred altars where our most sacred members perform.
The youth culture phenomenon has co-evolved with the rise of mass media. In the days before mass media, young people were at the bottom of the cultural hierarchy. The first flicker of youth culture in America was the jazz age, but even there the people driving it were old by modern standards. The characters in The Great Gatsby, for example, are mostly early middle-aged. It was after the war with the explosion of Hollywood that youth culture blossomed into the centerpiece of modern life.
Another reason why video maintains a privileged place at the top of our social hierarchy is Baby Boomer culture. For Boomers, for whom mass media evolved, video was always the top. In the golden age of television, for example, the whole country would watch popular television programs. No newspaper or radio broadcaster had the reach of a popular television program. Hitting the big time in the field of news or entertainment meant getting on TV or in the movies.
As much as young people, and not so young people, complain about the Baby Boom generation, the Boomers still control the culture. That is plainly obvious with the panic over the Chinese virus. If the Boomers were twenty years younger, the virus would rate a few mentions in the New York Times science section. Since Boomers are now deeply involved in the health care system, anything medical is going to be of utmost importance to everyone. It is why nurses are now heroes.
Putting all that aside, there is a curious truth about these different platforms that has gone unnoticed. The actual reach of video these days is much lower than the past and probably at the bottom of the hierarchy. For example, Tucker Carlson is the most popular cable talker. He gets about three million viewers per night. The regular audience for cable chat shows is probably around ten million people. The New York Times has more readers than that. Same with other news sites.
On the internet, where it is much more difficult to gate-keep the content, the disparities are even more stark. Popular live streamers get a few thousand live views and their replays get 20-30 thousand views. A variation of the Pareto Principle is clear as day as a handful of top streamers dominate the view counts while 90% or more are small fish with small viewer counts. The gamer PewDiePie, for example, probably accounts for half of D-Live’s traffic, maybe even more of it.
In the political realm, the data is starker. Nick Fuentes gets about 30-thousand viewers to his show each night. The bulk of it is the same people, as his subscriber count mirrors his view counts, assuming either number is accurate. When he was on YouTube his numbers were briefly higher, but that was due to the phenomenon of the “groyper war” that got him national attention. Again, these numbers are suspect, but let’s just assume his unfettered reach is somewhere around 50-thousand.
Greg Johnson’s site, Counter-Currents, gets about 300-thousand unique visits every month, according to his reporting. The Unz Review probably gets two to three times that traffic, maybe even more. There are dozens of sites catering to outsider politics that get much bigger audiences than Fuentes and he’s the big dog now. When you drop into the typical streamer, the difference becomes amusing. A “popular” streamer, someone that thinks they are a big deal, gets about 10-thousand views.
Getting back to where we started, in new media, the old rule is in reverse. The written word beats the spoken word and the spoken word beats video. Again, the metrics used in these formats are suspect and the comparisons are not equal. Unz and Counter-Currents have a fleet of contributors, while streamers are solo acts or maybe a team operating a single show. Even so, a blogger like Heartiste probably had over 100-thousand readers at his peak, double that of Fuentes.
There’s something else to throw into the mix. There is a difference between viewership, reach and influence. Take a poll of random Americans and more of them will have some familiarity with Nick Fuentes. They may not know anything about Fuentes, other than he is the “Nazi kid on the internet”, but his name will be familiar to them, because they have heard it on their preferred media. Ron Unz, on the other hand, may as well be witness protection. He is an unknown to most everyone.
The fact is, video is still the format with the greatest reach. People are much more likely to share a video clip than copy text from a site and mail it to a friend. They may share a link on their social media platform, but people are much less likely to click the link than watch the video. That’s how Tucker Carlson is a household name, despite the fact that 90% of American adults do not watch his show – ever. With video, you can become wildly famous even though most people never see you.
Now, reach is a different thing than influence. Does Nick Fuentes influence people with his nightly show? In his case, he probably does. Kids are drawn to his act, then passively pick up his politics. Carlson, on the other hand, plays to an established audience that has always existed. He just makes their priors more fun. That said, the typical Counter-Currents reader was a white nationalist before they found that site, which is the main appeal. Greg caters to that existing audience.
The most likely answer with regards to reach and influence is that the written word is the main driver of opinion. Few people reading this will know the name F. Roger Devlin, but his book Sexual Utopia in Power is largely responsible for the entire “man-o-sphere” genre on-line. If we extend that out to the pick-up artists, anti-feminists and others, Devlin has had more influence on men than all of the live streamers combined. His influence will continue into the next generations.
Finally, one last thing about these media platforms. In the legacy media, the newspaper man dreamed of getting a spot-on radio, as the hours were shorter and the pay better than being a beat writer or columnist. The radio guys dreamed of getting a television gig, because the pay was orders of magnitude better. ESPN hoovered up anyone with the least bit of talent for video, because they paid better. Tucker Carlson abandoned writing for television in order to get rich as a personality.
A similar, but smaller scale phenomenon seems to be working in new media. The reason there are so many live streamers is they make money at it. Nick Fuentes makes over $200,000 from his D-live platform. J.F. Gariepy claims to be making six figures with his live stream. These monetization systems like Stream Labs, Entropy and Super Chats sprung up because they can skim a bit from the flow of cash from viewers to these live streamers. Even the little guys make decent money.
In contrast, blogs and websites remain the ghetto of the internet. Three times a year Steve Sailer has to beg for money just to avoid living in a homeless camp. Greg Johnson is constantly looking for money to keep the lights on. These guys have vastly larger audiences than the live streamers, but a fraction of the income. Readers just refuse to support the writers they like, while viewers will take out a mortgage to pay the cable bill, so they can watch their favorite programs.
The reason for this is the way people engage the creator on these platforms. The old saying about the difference between television and radio is that television is a warm medium, while radio is a hot one. A television personality is like a guest at a party, in that they are engaging, but avoid being loud or animated. Radio guys have to be loud and excited in order to grab the listener’s attention. Most people consume audio content while doing other things, so the host has to get their attention.
What this means is the person consuming video is not really there for the content, but rather the social interaction. Live streaming allows the viewer to feel like they are in a party where the streamer is the guest of honor. Television news is loaded with amiable airheads for the same reason. People will welcome a dunce into their home if he is fun at parties, but not invite the smart guy with the unpleasant demeanor. People are willing to pay a lot to be flattered by a good guest in their home.
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