If you look at the current wave of the internet, the dominant financial force is the move to social media. Reddit, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s no longer the hot new thing, but a part of entrenched conglomerates coming after your time and attention. Here’s a hot button issue that’s increasingly talked about now: drinking from the internet firehose. Back in the 90’s, the internet was a small place. Now, everyone’s connected, and everyone’s consuming content. There’s a never ending stream of new content being produced relentlessly for people to consume, and huge incentives to keep producing more. Most of it ends up being shit. This is normal.
One interesting thing about the rise of social media is the decentralization of content production – instead of having curated sources for content, like broadcast television and movie theaters pre-internet, now anyone can make something and upload it to the internet. The part that’s been centralized is the distribution process, the part owned by these social networks. Now, I’m not going to say this decentralization is all inherently bad – that would be a broad and sweeping generalization. There’s some great stuff about opening the floodgates for people to make stuff; If I have an issue fixing my car/electronics/etc, the first thing I’d think of doing is hopping on youtube to see if someone has made a video detailing the repair process. A lot of niche subjects are routinely disseminated on youtube, to the benefit of the niche groups and to passive consumers. But as one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away.
One group that’s suffered tremendously from the advent of social media is the pre-internet content producers. I’m thinking of media conglomerates that own TV studios, newspapers, music production companies, and so forth. While I give approximately zero shits about the RIAA, I do feel like newspapers drawing the short stick is bad for everyone. While newspaper companies aren’t the sole source of investigative journalism, they are the source of like 90%* of investigative journalism in America. Therefore, financially ruining these institutions have a negative effect overall, assuming you believe journalism is a necessary service to the good of your country.
Discuss how constant media production devalues content in general. Link this to devaluation of journalism because content is expected to be free now, or supported solely by advertisements. Mention unavoidable costs of investigative journalism and come to conclusion that it’s unsustainable for man to live on ads alone. Talk about reverting back to patron model with patreon, and NYT asking for handouts.
Newspapers need to move to new model – but what is sustainable that includes hard costs of doing business? Needs to be reliable – thus subscription model. People aren’t paying for content, but expect it anyway and it should be cheap and plentiful. The meat and potatoes ends up being investigative journalism. People have to be incentivized to pay for it somehow. I’m optimistic that there’ll be a sustainable revenue stream for journalism in the future, when we hash out the economics of doing business on the internet. In the meantime, though, journalists are fucked.
*These numbers are sourced from the department of made up bullshit