Conservative commentator and media entrepreneur Glenn Beck has advice for both content providers and advertisers: the former needs to give viewers more control over content, and the latter needs to believe in their brands enough to pitch to anyone without fear of political fallout.
That was the message from the sometimes controversial Mr. Beck at the Advertising Age Media Evolved conference on Tuesday afternoon, where he held up his Mercury Radio Arts properties -- particularly the pioneering GBTV.com online TV station that he left Fox News to launch -- as examples of where the world of media and marketing is heading. Traditional TV, Mr. Beck said, is on its way out, and fast.
"I don't know anybody under 30 who is watching television," Mr. Beck said during an on-stage interview with Betsy Morgan, the former Huffington Post CEO who's now president of his company's The Blaze news website. "My kids don't watch television. ... "The problem is we are at a split right now. The generation that is my age -- slightly over 50, 55 -- they're not using iPad. They don't get it, they don't want it. ... They're still using television, that 's their comfort zone. The younger generation, that 's not their comfort zone, it's a stupid box that you're tied to."
GBTV.com attracted 235,000 subscriptions at $9.95 a pop even before its launch earlier this year. The Blaze garners 5 million monthly unique viewers. Mr. Beck's appearance came on the day his company, which includes a product deals website and his own site, announced a partnership with Icebox to create an animated comedy program.
Mr. Beck, who called this moment "one of the most exciting times [in media] since the printing press," forecast a future in which audiences have much more personalized control over content -- deciding, for example, to slow down or speed up one of Mr. Beck's signature, chalkboard-guided tirades with more or less on-screen context.
"It'll have two arrows -- that way to dumb down, that way to dumb up," he said. "You don't have to stay at my level, you can go below me, you can go above me. The revolution that 's coming is about the individual."
"Don't let some fat-cat executive [determine programming]. You decide that ," Mr. Beck said.
At times, Mr. Beck seemed to be almost berating advertisers, whose boycotts in the wake of some of his more incendiary on-air comments helped paved the way for his eventual exit from his eponymous Fox News show. Holding up an imaginary toothpaste brand as an example, he noted that Democrats and Republicans both have teeth, both look to buy the product -- and implied that a marketing pull is a slight to one side or the other.
"Stop treating your viewers like they're morons. They're not morons," Beck said. "You've got to start respecting people. ... People are people! Respect the end-user. Respect the end-user. Even if you don't agree with them, respect them, and they will be loyal to the end of time, because you stood up for what you believe in, which is , 'I have great toothpaste.'"