May 12, 2008

The mirror effect

Len Cutler at the Stress-Telegram links to an interesting article in Forbes about the massive consolidation of media companies that's occurred over the last few decades, including the astounding statistic that since 1975 the number of newspaper owners has dropped by two-thirds.

The real nut of the story, however, is how limited our choices really are in the Age of the Internet, despite the multitude of places we can now go online:

But even on the Web, traditional media companies remain the source of the most popular news and entertainment programming. Despite all the excitement over user-generated content, it's professionally produced big media content that attracts the most eyeballs and ad dollars.

The FCC, convinced competition has run amok, wants to change the rules for media ownership to make multi-platform consolidation even easier.

Given the physical landscape of this country, with the increasing self-segregation of neighborhoods, the sameness of streetscapes and architectural design, the carbon copy of big box stores and food franchises at every freeway stop, I can't help but worry the Internet will take on a similar sameness. Popular pays and what pays survives.

Sometime I think we have a misguided notion of the Internet. We think the nature of the tool is such that it will provide us a solution to our problems, forgetting that a tool needs someone to wield it. Maybe that's the reason dying newspapers and abysmal "hyperlocal" coverage hasn't yet been replaced by new online papers and actual local coverage.

There is still time for all of that to happen, and I see no reason not to be hopeful that such a trend will start to take off in the next few years. However, that will mean ensuring we do not limit our options by letting the Internet be turned into a virtual real estate market, sold off to the highest bidders, and that we become aware that what succeeds online depends on what we choose to read. (OK, off my soap box.)


Anonymous said...

Alas, I'm not as optimistic as you, Gary. You should see, as I do, what's coming out of our high schools. They are barely literate, let alone able to read AND understand the news. Furthermore, they don't give a damn ... all they seem to care about is how many "friends" they have on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

and when most of my friends were coming out of high school all we gave a damn about was girls and video games.

Every generation has its toys, foibles and good points.