Friday, October 13, 2006

Changing media landscapes: Will it decentralise us at last?

This isn’t intended to be a particularly informative post. More a fishing exercise – I’m looking for a few pointers and a discussion here. I’ve looked around briefly and can’t find anyone who has written about this with any authority – but suggestions are welcome.

A few months ago, I posted on the work of Pierre Bourdieu – his explanation of how the totality of power-relations work in the media, and how it influences the quality, the tone and the content of reportage and public discourse.

In the decade since Bourdieu published this work, the media has begun a process of transformation that is not yet complete. You will point out, of course, the organic processes such as this rarely reach a point of absolute completion, but, again, bear with me here.

For instance, there was a time in which advertising-spend could be roughly correlated with the success or otherwise of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs). This is no longer the case.

There was a time in which the contract between a journalist and a reader was fairly simple – that I would fork over 50p for a newspaper in return for a bit of reportage, a bit of comment and access to a few ‘classified’ noticeboards. It would be more than 50p but for the advertisers who subsidise my reading in return for me agreeing to glance at some of their messages.

Free stuff on the internet has changed all of that. The transactions are a lot more complex now – and many of them are highly speculative. For instance, you can watch The Fall performing Big New Prinz …

… on my blog without being served up with any adverts. How do YouTube monetise that service? Well, the short answer is that I haven’t a clue, and I can’t pretend to understand why someone would invest in a project that doesn’t have a visible revenue stream. I can just about understand how Google is worth as much as it is, but this goes one step further for me.

Advertising is particularly interesting. In the past, people were prepared to pay a newspaper for space in the hope that readers would glance at the ad and be impressed enough to nip down to the shops to buy the product. Having sold ads, I can confirm that being able to guarantee response was always the elusive Holy Grail.

Unless you had the kind of volume that mass media had, you didn’t even have the data to make the case to advertisers – a factor that has – I believe - favoured national over local media. Local papers, as a result, have reduced their investment in local journalism, and the political consequence of this is, of course centralisation. Boo!

But now you can get a measurable volume of response by advertising on a weblog. You can offer ‘payment by results.’

Is it the case, then, that a tide is turning here, and that we have the sunny uplands of decentralisation to look forward to?

It’s not a rhetorical question. I really don’t know the answer. But if anyone can point me to any reading on this, I’d be grateful.

1 comment:

Baz said...

dunno but if anyone can do it google can - their entire business model is based upon making money off other people's content