Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Future of "Mass" Media

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation will be joining Marvin Kalb on the next installment of “The Kalb Report” series, sharing "his unique perspectives on the future of journalism and the media” at the National Press Club.

It will be “unique” indeed, but the focus of this show is painfully misleading. The Hatchet wrote that Murdoch will sit down with Kalb “to discuss the future of journalism” but, the truth is, he will be meeting to discuss the “business for mass media” and not about journalism per se.

This event, instead, should be titled: “The Future of Mass Media -- which will no longer exist.” The business of mass media Murdoch strives for in this age will not work so easily.

The "mass" media, in the good’ol days, were so powerful and profitable because of their dominance and control over the “3Cs” -- contents, containers, and conveyors.

The importance of contents for the media industry has not changed much. People still look for trustworthy, insightful, and often exciting writings, visuals, and audios. So if we take a newspaper company as an example, the journalists and the writers are the creators of the contents. The first “C,” therefore, does not matter whether we can get it on Kindle, YouTube, or iPods.

Container would therefore be the actual paper for the newspaper company. There is, however, a limit to space. So the number and the length of the contents are often limited and shortened, depending on the number and the size of the paper.

Conveyors can be thought as the newsstands, where people actually buy the newspaper. But this “C” also cost money to ship and store the newspapers. There is a physical limit to send and keep them for a long period of time.

The “3Cs” can be applied to other media. In the business of television news, for example, news program is the content; the actual television is the container; satellite television or CATV are the conveyors. In the music industry, the song is the content; the CD from a major record company is the container; the CD store is the conveyor.

The so-called “crisis” is, therefore, a result of the loss of control over one or two of these “3Cs.” The newspaper companies still have control over the contents. But the container is now replaced by Google News, and the conveyor by the internet. As for the music industry, the container is replaced by iTunes Music Store; the conveyor, once again, is taken away by the internet.

In other words the mass media companies in the age of the internet are losing:

1. The power to control specific contents people would read, watch, or listen to.
2. The ability to combine advertisements with the contents.
3. The billing system to charge the contents.

The media people are, quite understandably, interested in hearing what Murdoch would do about these loses. Kalb said: “I cannot wait to sit down and talk to this media mogul about the crisis in contemporary journalism and to hear his views about what can be done to fix it.”

But as Jeff Jarvis, the author of “What Would Google Do,” said: "What crisis?" News contents -- products of journalism -- have not been affected at all. The actual problem is the loss of control over the containers and conveyors. They are left with only one “C.” (Or maybe two -- contents and crisis.)

We also already know what Murdoch thinks.
We are all allowing our journalism -- billions of dollars worth of it every year -- to leak onto the internet. We are surrendering our hard-earned rights to the search engines, and aggregators, and the out-and-out thieves of the digital age.
At first glance, Murdoch sounds like the guardian of journalism. Well, he is not. He does not care about people’s access to information. He just wants to get the money. He wants to stay as the media mogul. He wants to keep the “mass” media. And what did he do? He built a paywall around his news site.

In 1994, BBC interviewed the terminally ill playwright Dennis Potter. Discussing his illness, Potter said:
I call my cancer Rupert. Because that man Murdoch is the one who, if I had the time (I’ve got too much writing to do)… I would shoot the bugger if I could. There is no one person more responsible for the pollution of what was already a fairly polluted press.
OK. We obviously won’t need to go this far but let’s hear Murdoch’s comments with skepticism. We know that he can no longer control the "3Cs." We know that Murdoch can do better than turning the media industry into the Chinese government, blocking those who wish to have access to information. We know, although it is hard to accept, that the power of “mass” media will be in decline. The future of journalism and media do not lie in the hands of Press Lords.


Jenkinstbpt said...

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