If I have anything resembling a mantra that I do my best to reinforce every waking moment, it’s the one I often had to remind disbelieving executives with whenever I’d be the bearer of ratings news or testing reports that went against every instinct they had had when they put blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes even their jobs on the line, into a project that didn’t quite match with the populus how popular they thought it should have been in their minds. Calmly, at least at first, I’d say something to the effect of “Numbers Don’t Lie. Just The People Who Read Them”.
Among my more regular fans is a onetime executive who I’d sometimes have to attempt to placate. We were colleagues only briefly; I came aboard after he had had already had an extended run as a successful children’s programmer and creator. Our paths had crossed before; as it turned out, we both had a huge crush on a lovely research vendor who to the outside world was sweet, studious and rather prim. I thought at first they were an item; only after the lovely vendor reassured me they were merely friends did I even try to ask her out. We did share a few nice evenings where I learned she had a wilder side and family history; one of which was the night I found out my mother had passed away. We drifted apart after that; only years later did I learn on a chance encounter with her then-wife that neither of us really stood a chance in the first place.
Lately, this gentleman has become one of my more devoted online fans; unlike so many who I would wish would be a bit more supportive and forthcoming, he regularly interacts and reacts. Sometimes, not so complimentary, to be sure, but as I keep trying to remind myself, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. At least he HAS an opinion. And the other day, he threw down a gauntlet to me as an extension of one of his many posts that some might see as a bit reminiscent of the attitude of one Carl Fredericksen:
Several days ago I received a notice of pending regulatory application from At&T. Apparently Ma Bell wants out of landline service in a large part of their service territory in California. My district being one of them. AT&T no longer wants to be the carrier of last resort (COLR). If the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gives the okay, my landline and those of millions of others will simply end up as a fond memory of bygone days. Granted my landline only rings for robo calls, or people asking me if I have some time to take dumb surveys, or when I call it from my cell phone late at night just to make the neighbors wonder who would be calling me this late. But it’s like chocolate cake. It’s comfort food if one could eat one’s princess phone.
And this apparently REALLY upsets my friend. And, oddly enough, I really do get where he’s coming from. I feel much the same way about box scores and TV listings in newspapers, and, for that matter, print editions of newspapers and magazines themselves. I still get them, though on a day like this there’s barely enough printed pages to even wrap up one shelf of a kitchen cabinet for a move between all of the ones I get daily. When I relocated my entire apartment cross-country in the 80s, two Sunday editions of the New York Times and Daily News alone took care of my entire collection of mugs and collectables.
But I see the numbers and I know damn well I’m a dying breed. I see the comments from friends who question my loyalty, and I know where to look for the numbers to support who might be right or wrong. Statista is a fantastic resource for quite a bit of those questions. Their most recent data on daily consumption of physical numbers, from an August 2022 survey, tells the tale conclusively. Just one in seven adults 45-64 read a daily printed localnewspaper; not even one in five 65 or older do. In both cases, that’s significantly smaller percentages than who get their news from social media. Among adults 35-44, the chasm between social and local is 45% to 6%.
So as a courtesy to my friend, I did the same thing for landline phones. Turns out even Statista isn’t tracking it. But I did find a telling story from last summer’s WASHINGTON POST where Andrew Van Dam answered at length one of HIS reader’s burning questions: