By Zach Chia
It is a commonly used trope that technology has revolutionized the way we live, a cliché that the world is moving so much faster because of globalization, a platitude that the internet and capitalism make our lives better. The technological age has, however, not been an absolute positive. There have been unintended consequences in journalism because of these epochal changes. We have easy, quick, and free access to the constant bombardment of advertisements, unending drama on social media and a 24-hour news cycle with important breaking news taking place seemingly every hour.
When we have access to so much for free though, it takes a lot to draw our attention. We don’t want to read an article if we can read a headline and make a snap judgment. We are drawn to drama, our eyes peer to drama, and everyone likes free things.
But what does this do to our media consumption? And does it matter? The first thing to note is that nothing comes for free. The second thing to note is that the currency of journalism and media is eyeballs not content.
The first thing to note is that nothing comes for free. The second thing to note is that the currency of journalism and media is eyeballs not content.
Eyeballs are influencing because when we read or see something there is a chance we can get persuaded to do something, perhaps buying a product or vote a certain way). That is the whole reason why social media influencer is an actual job. Take another example, Buzzfeed is threatening the established media order in the United States because it has a winning formula for drawing eyeballs – listicles, quizzes, short bite-sized articles and a regular release of Youtube videos that go viral.
To keep their business running with viewers who want free content, the content producers must find a different way to make money. These companies simply cannot approach the readers or viewers for money, as we can easily resort to following another media outlet free of charge. Thus, advertising has become a primary source of revenue for these companies.
However, advertisers only advertise with the companies that have a large viewership that they want to court. For example, Breitbart’s readership is from the far-right. This means its content must be far-right in nature to secure their viewers and groups with similar, far-right elements, such as the National Rifle Association, which unsurprisingly, is a support source of the news network’s advertising. This means that unfortunately, we are not the paymasters of our media, we are their product.
We are not the paymasters of our media, we are their product.
Our media is not independent of where its money comes from, in fact, it is wholly dependent on the money.