The way we tell our stories

 

I enjoyed having two college friends and their wives join us at Compass Lake for a few days this past weekend.  One was my college roommate, and the other has also been a great friend since we met as starry eyed Freshmen at Auburn. Our wives have all become fast friends as well and it is always great for the six of us to get together.

It is impossible to have your first joint memories seeded in college fraternity activities without repeatedly recounting shared stories. We have told these tales over and over these past 45 years.

I noticed there may be some increasing variations in the way we recall certain incidents.  In some cases, one of us may not remember it at all. Since we are all roughly the same ages our memories seem to be getting a bit fuzzy at the same time which allows us to give each other some slack. After all, a good story is often better than the absolute facts.  If you don’t believe it, ask a good politician.

The previous weekend, our grandchildren were making their own memories with us as they tubed, jumped off the dock and swam for hours. The difference in their stories over time may turn out to be the videos that capture so much of their action.   I wonder if their own stories will morph over time, or will the fact that so much of their history is recorded keep them more tethered to the truth of what actually happened.

Even the way we tell our story to consumers through advertising has drastically changed.  In the early 1990s, the three major networks controlled messages to the public. Almost 100% of their revenue was from advertising.

Today, only about half of the revenue for CBS comes from advertising. Their major competitors are Netflix and Amazon.  Over 50 percent of the public that record their television content fast forwards over the ads.

To compensate for the way that consumers are increasingly ignoring advertising, popular social media platforms like Facebook micro target consumers based on what they have viewed or bought on the internet.

For instance, if you bought a shirt at Dillard’s, you may get a coupon the next time you are near a Dillard’s offering you a 20% discount if you come in that day. People are catching on to the fact that their buying habits, what they view and where they visit on the web is being captured to better target them for future advertising.

To illustrate the point, 97 percent of Facebook’s enormous revenue is from advertising dollars. There is a growing strain between the public’s desire to avoid advertising and their privacy concerns about their own data.

Newspapers are not immune to this changing way of advertising.  Large newspapers have been particularly hard hit by this evolution, while community newspapers, in many cases, remain the primary source of local news and activity.

I am old enough to know that the world is changing at an accelerating rate.   I have not been to a theater in a year or two, but can watch a movie on my phone.  I have not read a hardback book in a couple of years, but read more than I ever have. I have not looked in a phone book for more than a couple of years, but have the contact information for hundreds of people I don’t even know.

In the meantime, cling to the good story, the oral history of your family, and the written report of what is going on around you. One day, you will sit around with old friends and realize that no matter how we tell the tale, the story remains an important part of the fabric of our lives.

o0o

Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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