Read: The Mueller-industrial complex collapses
This isn’t anything new. The Post also added its analysis to an edition of Kenneth Starr’s report on the Bill Clinton investigation in 1998. But back then, many Americans weren’t yet online, and they certainly weren’t glued to the internet like today’s citizenry. Ebook readers such as Kindles and Nooks didn’t exist. If you were lucky enough to have a brand-new 56k modem, downloading a large PDF could have taken an hour.
But today your grandfather and your 6-year-old both know how to find the report on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. So when Barnes & Noble offers a free download of the report, it’s mostly taking advantage of the opportunity to market the Nook e-reader and app, a platform that many might have forgotten about entirely in light of the Amazon Kindle’s market share. Attention is a powerful force, and marketers know that huge barrels of the stuff will be focused on all things Mueller today. Might as well take advantage of it. (Barnes & Noble declined to comment on the record.)
That’s nothing new, either. With consumer attention fragmented across the internet’s shrapnel, advertising has become about hitting countless narrow targets, which are then aggregated into a profitable market. So when something really does become a national or global phenomenon, attracting huge swaths of the population’s collective eyeballs all at once, marketers chomp at the bit to take advantage.
Earlier this week, Game of Thrones offered one such rare example. Improbably, the fantasy epic became an international sensation, making it a lusty mark for promotions and tie-ins. There were Game of Thrones Oreos. Duolingo, the naggy language-learning app, offered a course in High Valyrian. Adidas released a set of Ultraboost sneakers themed after the great houses of Westeros. The Mueller report is Game of Thrones for the real world—minus the dragons, but with all the political intrigue. It’s no surprise brands want to take advantage of it.
And then, of course, there’s what comes next: Once the report is released, anyone is free to use it for any purpose, including commercial use. That means you can do whatever else you want with the report—no copyright restrictions prevent you from making motivational posters, screen-printing T-shirts, or embroidering baseball caps with excerpts. You could also market your own print-book edition of the report to compete with the one Barnes & Noble is selling.
But, of course, this isn’t a prestige TV show; it’s a years-long investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And unlike all the votive candles and Mueller Time T-shirts people made to stir up juju for Mueller indictments, this is the report itself we’re talking about. The end result of an investigation into the possible corruption of the highest U.S. office by a foreign power, cut apart and sold off for scrap.