Green Room

Palin’s living lesson in market economics

posted at 11:13 pm on May 31, 2011 by

I haven’t seen so many versions of the same buzzphrase on one topic since the last time Lindsay Lohan was in court.  (Which, granted, was only a few days ago.)

Palin has caused a ruckus this week when she set off on a bus trip … but refused to tell reporters where she was going, forcing them into a cat and mouse chase.

After playing a cat-and-mouse game with the press for more than two days, Ms. Palin and her pursuers were both holed up in the same hotel…

Sarah Palin and her advisers are refusing to tell members of the media where she is going on her current bus tour – and the former Alaska governor seems to be enjoying the cat and mouse game that’s resulted.

She spent the holiday weekend playing cat-and-mouse with reporters, refusing to issue a schedule of her stops at historic sights in the Washington area and now beyond.

But with Palin keeping her next destination top secret, the cat-and-mouse game continues.

Brian Montopoli is caught up in Palin’s cat-and-mouse strategy…

CNN managed to mix it up a little:

In a brief interview Tuesday with CNN, Palin denied she is playing “cat and mouse.”

Steve Benen (Political Animal) finds this all incredibly annoying, but that didn’t stop him from giving this title to his post today:

A ridiculous game of cat and mouse

He offers this suggestion:

This might sound crazy, but if major media outlets feel like they’re being jerked around, and don’t like being treated “like paparazzi,” they could … I don’t know … go cover something else? Maybe the news organizations could get together, agree to send an intern with a cell-phone camera to follow the bus and serve as some kind of pool reporter, and end this madness?

And that’s the thing:  they can’t.  As much as they prefer to make and shape the news – to decide what it is, to deck it in themes-n-memes, to determine whose narrative is communicated effectively and whose is to be shipwrecked on “beat your wife” insinuations – they can’t not cover Sarah Palin.  They have to be there, because everyone else will be.  And everyone else will be because “Palin” sells.

Look at the MSM coverage online.  The major news outlets all have photo galleries covering everything Palin has done since she rumbled into the Rolling Thunder rally.  This is a woman running around in jeans with her family on a bus tour, and the cameras are out for her as if she were Angelina Jolie in Cannes.

Sure, photo galleries are posted for Hillary Clinton when she schleps through Pakistan, and for the Obama retinue when he signs things in Poland and gives speeches in Brazil.  But nobody clicks on those.  Those are the product of the “press protocol” the media have been caterwauling about today:  the standard things the press does in response to the standard things politicians do.  Photo galleries are posted like clockwork:  used by regional online and print clients, and by local news affiliates; ignored by the general public.

But pictures of Palin get clicks.  Pictures of Palin sell.  The name “Palin” is one of the highest profile online search terms.  The joke in the 1990s used to be that to make people listen to your spiel, you needed to brand it as a miracle diet and refer to it “as seen on Oprah.”  Today’s version of that is “put a picture of Sarah Palin next to it” and make sure your title and teaser contain the search terms from the latest theme in Palin coverage.  Palin is a media factor the media didn’t make and can’t unmake.

The press isn’t accustomed these days to not perceiving itself as in control of what the public is interested in.  But the MSM is innately more hardheaded about this than niche bloggers and opinion writers, because the MSM is a for-profit enterprise.  It has a bottom line.   It’s easy to say, “Hey, the press doesn’t have to cover Palin”; but media executives know that’s pretty much like saying “Microsoft doesn’t have to package software.”

What we are seeing with the press frenzy over the bus tour is nothing more than the free market at work.  If the media had the power to suppress public interest in Palin, I don’t know that they would.  She’s a cash cow.  But whatever they may want, MSM programmers and editors know that the competition will be there, whether they are or not.  The thing about new-media coverage of Palin is that it does build an audience.  Failing to cover her is ceding views, clicks, ratings – sponsorship – to the competition.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the interesting possibilities in Glenn Beck’s decision to pursue a new media venture of his own.  We won’t know for a while what the outlines of that venture will be (although we can probably guess).  I imagine Beck’s unifying theme will be preparing America, as he believes we should be prepared, for the 2012 election.

Palin’s bus tour strikes me as a similar kind of effort, except that for her it’s a “new political venture” as opposed to the launch of a media enterprise.  She really is attempting to “do politics” her way.  She’s not reaching out to potential constituents through the media, by a standard formula.  There’s not even any explicit idea that the Americans she will engage with are “potential constituents.”  She is bypassing and ignoring the conventional forms of politics to address a political need as she sees it – to engage the people on the importance of our nation’s founding philosophy and founding documents – on her own terms.

The interesting thing, at this point, is that from this unconventional posture, she’s driving the market.  The coverage – grumpy, expostulating, reluctant – is following her

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

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Nice work, JE. The point of this tour is to step out of the media/blogosphere bubble and see if ordinary people are interested in her as a candidate and/or messenger. The point is not to see if reporters will show up at each stop. Reporters think they are the most important thing in the world to a politician, though, and are sulking like children at being ignored.

alwaysfiredup on May 31, 2011 at 11:51 PM

That’s what Ronald Reagan figured out: Once you become newsworthy, the media need you a lot more than you need them.

Anyone the media makes, the media can break. Every politician who plays along with the liberal propaganda machine to get a few seconds of free air time belongs to the liberal media, lock, stock and barrel. Everything else (all the the “Democrat” and “Republican” labels on media-approved candidates) is what Michelle Malkin calls the Washington Kabuki Dance.

logis on June 1, 2011 at 12:52 AM

Kinda reminicient of the political train tours of the last couple of centuries. I’d be guessing to say that the people in fly-over country don’t normally get a caravan into town, unless you count the mobile carnies. The response of both the locals and Palin would most likely be fairly genuine, the impressions of each more positive than a speech heard from afar.

This is interesting politics, more so than as logis implies regarding the ownership of the meme by the newsarazzi. Obviously Palin feels, after her past couple of years in negative news country, that controlling the situation is better than having it attempting to control her future.

Maybe the MSM should have thought more about playing nice in previous coverage. I could only imagine Palin becoming President and leaving most of them out of the press box, off the plane. ‘course then they’d only whine about transparency.

Robert17 on June 1, 2011 at 7:39 AM

A President Palin will sell AF1 and get a smaller plane so she wouldn’t have to tote the media around. Let them charter their own transportation.

Kissmygrits on June 1, 2011 at 9:45 AM

JE, spot on. As noted be another commenter, this was RWR’s MO. Imagine the fits Sam Donaldson and crew would have had if the internet was in full bloom then.

AH_C on June 1, 2011 at 12:11 PM

But whatever they may want, MSM programmers and editors know that the competition will be there, whether they are or not. The thing about new-media coverage of Palin is that it does build an audience. Failing to cover her is ceding views, clicks, ratings – sponsorship – to the competition

the biggest reason the MSM HAS to cover Gov Palin is if they don’t someone else. Like Gov Palin herself will be able to shape the narrative. Gov Palin’s negatives have been held up for the last 3 years by the MSM never allowing Gov Palin to have a postive newscycle. If they don’t cover her. She gets to shape the narrative. The MSM has shown it cares nothing about money it’s all about ideology and the ability tpo push the narrative. If they make money that’s a nice side bonus.

unseen on June 1, 2011 at 3:13 PM

A President Palin will sell AF1 and get a smaller plane so she wouldn’t have to tote the media around. Let them charter their own transportation.

Kissmygrits on June 1, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Uh, no. Air Force One is now an American Icon, and she would not sell it. She might, however, use the seats they normally reserve for media jackals for another purpose, like regular Americans, or honored veterans, or something unconventional.

I love AF1, that is a magnificent aircraft, and it represents America around the world in a spectacular fashion. The paint scheme was originated by Jackie Kennedy, and it looks fantastic to this day.

I may be somewhat biased because I have a first cousin who served in the Air Force for 25 years, most of it aboard AF1 as a communication encryption specialist. He retired from service in 2006 as a Master Tech Sargent. He has great stories about all the Presidents and staff he worked with, and their trips around the world from Dan Quayle as VP, to GHW Bush as President when the new 747 was first delivered all the way to GWB43′s top secret Baghdad Thanksgiving trip.

He also was on the final flight of the 707 AF1 that Reagan used when they flew it from DC out to the Reagan Library AF1 Pavilion.

Brian1972 on June 1, 2011 at 6:09 PM

I was at Costco today and everyone in line was griping about the cost of food so I said we could thank Obama Pelosi and Reid who had since 2006 (I emphasized 2006)put this country on a course of debt, over regulation, higher gas prices, less national security, etc. I explained how that affects everything in the supply chain…I reminded them that Obama gave Brazil 2 billion but put a moratorium on our drilling..long story short we all agreed Obama and Co had to go…so asked who I was for I said Sarah Plain and got surprise…but I said look at her real record not the one the MSM put out and you’ll see why… I hope they do. Onelady said she did admire her but in Liberal L.A. it takes people like me to educate…

Oh, I clicked on this post because it said…PALIN!

CCRWM on June 1, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Oh, I clicked on this post because it said…PALIN!

CCRWM on June 1, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Whoa, CCRWM. No way.

:-)

J.E. Dyer on June 1, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Whoa, CCRWM. No way.

J.E. Dyer on June 1, 2011 at 9:40 PM

hey I clicked on it because it said market economics.

that’s my story…….

unseen on June 1, 2011 at 11:39 PM

Good article mix Mr. Dyer, SP and Market Econ. Another thing I noted about SP’s bus tour is that it is completely funded by SP and thru VOLUNTARY contributions and no thievery of public funds as are all the BHO money raising junkets!
BTW, I also see you write for Commentary, which I frequented before Commentary decided to disallow reader’s reply. What gives with all the snarly, snooty jibes @ SP @ Commentary and why is Commentary completely stocked with only hardcore NeoCon writers (Boot) who never fail to support US intervention in any worthless/useless battle?

el Vaquero on June 4, 2011 at 4:45 AM