Media - Anxiety, Fear, & Game Theory

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

A research study on the probability of virality found that the most viewed & emailed New York Times articles in a three-month period evoked “high arousal” emotions such as awe, anger and fear.

The world of Media is now in a constant battle amongst each other to present the world in a state that causes anxiety, fear, and polarized emotions.

If you consider Fox News and CNN in a one on one competition, by presenting the most accurate representation of "real news" with an unbiased viewpoint, they would both get the top utility (10,10). This equilibrium is attained some of the time, such as in daytime news shows and weekend morning reports.

The main source of revenue for both channels however, is through the value of the ads that they place during the most watched time slots. There is a direct relationship between revenue and the ratings the prime-time week night shows achieve at both organizations. These prime time viewership ratings are increasingly important as tech companies take ad market share, viewers stream Netflix and cut cable costs.

If Fox News presents a completely exaggerated story, more viewers will naturally tune in, causing CNN to go "tit-for-tat" and then present a hot-blooded ardent news report the following day.

Over time the dominant strategy for both shows is to portray "Exaggerated News", ending up with a 5,5 utility. They have an incentive to promote the most intensely emotional reaction possible from their viewers.