Month: January 2022


Media bifurcation

January 12, 2022

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Quick summary of some tweets in response to this article about how hard news is moving behind paywalls

https://www.axios.com/media-startups-subscriptions-elite-401b9309-404e-482b-9e23-718f9daea3a6.html

The tone of the articles is that journalism is moving to paywalls so the poor underprivileged folks will be denied all this valuable journalism, and suffer as a result.

If the mass population were to be denied access to journalism, that would be about the best thing that could possibly happen, but of course it is not conceivable. They will continue to get what they want to consume; the stuff that is moving behind paywalls is the niche stuff that the profitable mass media no long sees a reason to subsidise.

Nevertheless, that is significant and could have large effects in the long run. I wrote about some of the issues a decade ago, when I reviewed “Flat Earth News”.

Mass-market news is primarily entertainment. Most people watch news to engage their minds and have something to talk about, not because they actually benefit from the information. (see also: Politics as Entertainment).

There is a long tradition, though never dominant and much reduced in recent decades, of including true information in news media. This was a product of paternalism, idealism, and the fact that actual news was kicking around anyway and was easy to throw in.

There has always been a minority of news consumers who actually need true information from the news for practical reasons. They used to be served by the same media industry as the mass market. (Not necessarily the same publications, but the same organisations and meta-organisations of media).

When the same industry produced facts for the minority and entertainment for the majority, that made it cheap to include facts in entertainment. If it bifurcates, the infotainment side will no longer have access to or focus on true information.

It is not clear that “premium news” of the type described in the axios piece is the factual news I am discussing, as opposed to just being a market segment of infotainment. It might be, but “business intelligence” services are more obvious candidates.

The “factual news consumers” I am thinking of are primarily business and government. If you want to know what is really going on in the world today, in order to make business decisions, do you read a daily newspaper or watch TV news? I don’t think so — you read specialised industry analyses.




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