Audience of One: A Book Review

At the heart of good marketing and marketing communication is a grasp of the gestalt. Of what is and what is likely to happen in the broader world of human lives and society. And good art — both the fine and the popular kind — offers us glimpses into this gestalt that while resonating with our own experience allow us to go deeper and wider in our perception of world. In this “review” series of posts I offer my brief takes on books, movies and television that I have liked and which in some way inform and further my practice as a professional strategist.

In 1964 Marshall Mcluhan in his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” used the phrase “the medium is the message”. Since then the phrase have been used and misused by many in varied contexts.

While Poniewozik’s book might not yield a pithy phrase that will take on a life of its own, his book is a breathtaking extension of Mcluhan’s key thesis: Mcluhan defines a medium as an extension of our selves or our senses. The medium therefore is the message in they way that the eye defines “seeing”, the mind defines “thinking” or the ear defines “hearing”.

Poniewozik’s thesis is that ever since its invention TV in the US has defined the gestalt. That is instead of the nature of TV programming being defined by larger social and cultural trends, changes in the reach and technology of the medium have driven key social and cultural trends! For example the emergence of broadcast TV caused the phenomenon of mass culture and mass markets. And the emergence of cable and streaming is driving an era of tribalism and segmentation.

The apotheosis of Mr. Poniewozik’s book is an analysis of the phenomenon of the Trump presidency in the context of his thesis. Mr. Poniewozik’s Trump thesis is an entertaining addition to the booming industry of Trump analysis. His insight is that Trump more than being a person is a personification of the phenomenon of TV — in that what matters to him is what is on the screen at the moment with no thought to what has come before or what will come after: “On The Trump Show, the president is not only the star of the TV series he lived inside, but he is also its sole audience, it was the rest of the world that needed to be conscripted as stage set and players, to perform the required story”. Audience of One is an insightful read. Highly recommended

I see myself as a pursuer of the truth that within and without

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