[iDC] Murdoch's Move
markbandrejevic at gmail.com
Tue Nov 24 08:08:28 UTC 2009
One of the things that I had hoped to bring up at the conference's final
de-briefing session before we ran out of time was the fact that while both
the notions of work and play got worked over fairly well, the third,
featured term in the title got a bit less attention -- at least in terms of
considering how it might continue to change in the near future. The internet
itself seemed largely to function as a taken-for-granted platform in the
way, that interestingly is no longer the case for the media that it has
helped to transform, such as radio, TV, and newspapers.
It seems worth pointing out that the internet has changed quite dramatically
in the past few decades and is likely to continue to do so for the
foreseeable future. The recent, seemingly jarring news from the
disconcerting duo of Microsoft and NewsCorp (
drives the point home, and was probably not so difficult to predict.
the difficulties media outlets are having in leveraging their online
presence into advertising revenues it's perhaps not surprising that the
models that are making money in the new media environment such as that of
the successful search engine may find themselves in the position of
subsidizing content. In this case, I suspect the deal, if it goes through,
is a misconceived one: the advertising model that works online is
based on volume of users, and chopping up the pool of potential users looks
like a losing proposition. It's a swipe at Google, but in the long run, it's
a swipe at the logic of the search engine. Not to mention the fact that the
Fox News/New York Post demographic is probably not the best demographic bet
for online advertising.
But the underlying logic that such a deal hints at might be a bit more
robust: find the business model that works and use that to subsidize
content. Newspapers have long been complaining that people aren't willing to
pay for online content, but that is perhaps only part of the story.
Consumers have demonstrated a growing willingness to pay for pipeline (at
rates much greater than the cost of a daily newspaper): for monthly mobile
phone subscriptions, pay TV, and broadband access. Pipelines are useless
without some kind of content -- and an important part of the content, as the
conference highlighted, has been provided by free labor of various kinds.
When it comes to professionally produced media content, down the road, and
legal hurdles aside, the obvious tendency would be toward the control of
content providers by the companies that are making the money: those who own
and operate the pipelines (perhaps also the major search engines?). The
broader point is that the infrastructure and operation of the internet
is dynamic and subject to transformations in accordance with commercial
imperatives (challenging the principle of net neutrality, etc.) -- the
functioning of the "platform" is in play -- along with the activities that
it supports. It's not just what we mean by work and play that need
clarification and exploration, but also what we mean, projecting into the
future, by "the internet."
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