The Digital Environment: Taking the Long View

5. Medium Survival Principles

  • All established forms must change in response to emerging new media or die.

  • There is a co-evolution of all communication forms.
    • Convergence has come to mean more media, not fewer.
    • There is a lot of "path crossing" and "overlap."

  • There is a communication business paradox: Innovation is competition driven; Communication is monopoly driven.

    Who owns what? (consolidation chart)

    "The 6 Companies That Own (Almost) All Media" (infographic and articles, at bottom)
    <https://www.webfx.com/blog/internet/the-6-companies-that-own-almost-all-media-infographic/>

  • The new media era has been one of a tremendous amount of consolidation toward cross-ownership

"F.T.C. Chair Lina Khan Upends Antitrust Standards by Suing Meta" <https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/28/technology/ftc-lina-khan-meta.html>

  • "Big tech companies snap up smaller rivals at record pace."
    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/09/big-tech-companies-snap-up-smaller-rivals-at-record-pace/


  • Advantages/Pros:
    • Bits co-mingle so help explain each other.
    • Companies pick up additive abilities to collect and distribute information.
    • Co-mingled companies are stronger so more stable.
  • Disadvantages/Cons:
    • Competition helps keep companies working hard.
    • Competition helps keep companies honest.
    • The bigger the company, the more insulated and hard to influence.
  • The Principle of Relative Constancy means that, perhaps, success in one media form requires lack of success in another.
    • The original proposal was that Americans spend a consitent amount of money on entertainment and information (roughly 3% of income) such that any/all spending on new media has to come out of the amount budgeted for old media.
    • The available amount is limited by fixed needs/costs (housing/food/education/heathcare, etc.). The total spent on entertainment and information, as a percentage of total money spent, has grown over the past 20 years, perhaps to as much as 5 or 6%. As that percentage grew, some new media aspects were able to take a place at the table with old media, without sacrificing the old.
    • However, the fixed costs cannot be reduced and redistributed much further. So money which might be spent on new media may well, once again, come out of money now spent on old media unless the new media spending somehow saves money from either the fixed expense budget or old media costs.

Initially, New Media Narrowcasting (computational/digital/webbed) and Old Media Broadcasting (and print) used to attract and leverage audiences via different approaches.

  • Broadcasting
    • charged little for many eyes
    • cast a wide net
    • was pushed toward users
    • was culturally collaborative.
  • Narrowcasting
    • cost a lot for fewer eyes
    • targeted very specific users
    • was pulled by users
    • isolated and individualized

  • Pulling instead of pushing
    • In the old media environment, most information got pushed onto/at consumers.
    • In the new media environment, more information was pulled by users.
      • Pulling may empower users
      • However pulling provides LOTS of tracking information to producers such that they might encourage the change

These initial differences between old media and new media have flipped and combined as consolidation and convergence increased and digital forms evolved.

  • Digital media is now often
    • casts a wide net
    • charges little for many eyes
    • is pushed


New media has it's own problems.

Old media manipulates the law (better than new media) and can lock out competition.

There are a LOT of players under the "new media" banner.

There are a LOT of older players . . . with a variety of interests, now operating within new media space

Concept 5 Analysis article:

"Mark Zuckerberg Testifies About Meta’s Virtual Reality Ambitions."
<https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/20/technology/zuckerberg-meta-ftc-virtual-reality.html>

Want to learn more?

<competition_in_digital_markets.pdf> US House Subcommittee on Anti-Trust, 2020. in Canvas Files.

Franklin Foer. World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. Penguin Books, 2017.

Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider (eds) Ours to Hack and to Own. OR Books, 2016.

Ken Auletta. Googled: The End of the World As We Know It. Penguin, 2009/2010

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