As someone who grew up and edited a magazine in the monoculture
, and has now lived without it for a decade, it’s something I think about a lot. EG I noticed Addison Rae on the cover of Remix (an NZ print magazine) recently, and am curious about how it will go.
My gut says that as famous as she is, it might bomb, largely because while she is unimaginably famous, I don’t know whether her fans buy magazines or even where they would encounter one? I learned this the hard way 15 years ago when I put Soulja Boy on the cover of a magazine, around the time Crank Dat was everywhere. It was the lowest-selling issue I ever edited, in part because he was a very early social star, broken on YouTube. I remember writing that he had 27m streams, and that being an unimaginable number then. (To be clear, I have zero regrets about putting Soulja Boy on a magazine cover!)
What I want to do this week is look at two types of media which still have monocultural properties. What I mean by that is that they create a sufficient volume of attention to break through silos, and that their biggest moments still feel huge. This is why the apex versions of these forms are among the most valuable and truly mass media we still have.
Sports fandom is intense and multi-generational, often inherited. You might acquire it through school, through a parent or a friend, and once a code has its hooks in, sports can be much stickier than a singer or a sitcom, each of which typically has a shorter life span than a team, which can last for centuries.
Sports highlights are made for social media, and non-live products work well too. The UFC really accelerated its growth through a reality show (more on that below), the Ultimate Fighter, and Luce’s F1 obsession started with Drive to Survive. Sports is still all about live, which is why sports rights are ludicrously valuable, and the fandom surrounding individuals like Naomi Osaka or Conor McGregor often transcends their record as athletes.
A relatively new phenomenon (it’s been around c 25 years, vs most other TV forms which are more like 70 years old), reality TV has some sports-like qualities in that its fans really like to watch it live, and leads up to a finale which brings the biggest audiences. It has accelerated in the social era, drawing from and minting careers for its stars.
Like sports, it also creates both a high volume of content (most franchises run multiple nights a week), and supports a powerful ecosystem of meta-content, like podcasts (I’ve been doing one for seven years
The most powerful current example is Love Island UK, which is a global smash engineered for this era. It encourages user participation through voting, has a wildly popular Reddit with which it now partners, and a huge stream of official and unofficial commentary which both markets the core product and keeps people hooked.
(I am fully aware that heaps of sports fans would recoil at the idea their beloved team is basically a reality TV franchise; to be clear that is exactly what I am saying)
For all that, even sports and reality are getting more fragmented (I think a lot of YouTubers are basically making their own reality TV shows, while some are becoming boxers too), so even these totems are ultimately going to fall.
ANYWAY thank you so much for putting up with me geeking out about all the different things we put in our eyes and ears, I am very grateful that Luce lets me do it and for all your feedback.