Sunday, October 14, 2012

pwning the media

Media markets have been transformed by the internet but calling new media new is a category error mistaking markets for  products they trade.

Calling new media new lets it off whatever hooks media were formerly hung on to dry as mistakes or excesses or controversies about it were aired. Worse, in the best traditions of labels signifying the exact opposite of what they are attached to, the so-called social new media can be anything but.

While a series of flame wars engulfs the Australian Twitterverse, the spectre of a facebook-based consumer boycott is haunting the average business.  Trust in the old ways of doing things seems to have ebbed to a new low. The consumer-led boycott of businesses advertising on Sydney Radio 2GB is not unprecedented - the American War of Independence began with a boycott of tea - but the Macquarie Radio Network`s capitulation to it is.

Time was the average media proprietor would stand up to bullying. Kerry Packer never minced words defending his turf.  The Macquarie Radio Network caved to an email campaign almost straightaway, complaining in part of a lack of regulatory zeal in bringing new media to heel. Of course the delicious irony of the owner of 2GB complaining about bullying is lost on almost nobody. But the rhetorical separation of media into old and new seems to have passed unremarked, and it shouldn't.

Calling new media new implies it is above old-fashioned criticism when it isn't. Media markets have fragmented but there is no good reason for media proprietors to go to pieces as well.  Where are the Media Buyers explaining run of station advertising and the absence of choice small advertisers have in where their commercials are placed? Where are the proprietors defending their people?

Instead there are calls for greater regulation, a sure sign of panic from an industry already grown fat from statutory monopolies. Get the government involved, that's sure to work.

Media owners need to find their voices, not silence others, now they are but few amongst many.

The old communications monopolies are gone. Media markets have been flattened by the internet, which flows like an incoming tide around the hierarchies of distribution and production that kept mass media profitable for so  many years. But  more regulation to prop up aging media silos will only prolong their, and our, pain.

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