Last Life to Live

by Mark Wilson

GOOD provides an interesting discussion of the death of soap operas:

When Zynga–publisher of massively popular Facebook games such as FarmVille and CityVille–arrived on the scene in 2007, both All My Children and One Life to Live were averaging a 1.9 rating among women 25-54. By 2011 the two shows were averaging 1.3 and 1.4 ratings respectively in that key viewer group. The drop is even steeper for other demographics. Meanwhile, by April 2009, Zynga was reaching 40 million monthly active players on Facebook, according to comScore. These days, the game has over 47 million players each month while the more recent hit, CityVille, attracts a staggering 88 million active participants.

Maybe. But even if you’re interacting with FarmVille, the fastest “crops” still take 4 hours to “grow.” Also, paying attention to FarmVille is not something exclusive; you can play FarmVille while doing something else. It seems more likely that more women are just working outside the home. (I don’t know if AdWeek investigated so see if there is a similarly inverse relationship between growth of women in the workplace and loss of soap opera audience.)

The loss of soap operas is, on the one hand, a little sad, because of the nostalgia factor. On the other hand, soap operas were targeted at stay-at-home mothers and wives, which, until recently, were all mothers and wives. It seems like a loss of soap opera audience is good for employment equality, since it’s circumstantial evidence that the soap opera’s primary demographic — the homemaker — is becoming structurally unemployed, which means women are out there in the workplace.*

* Not to demean the occupation of “homemaker,” which is great if that’s what you want to do, but fewer women becoming homemakers means more women in the outside-the-home workplace, which means more bargaining power, more normalcy (i.e., women at work is not a novelty, but a necessity and a fact of life), and hopefully more equal wages for all those women who work outside the home.