Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Interweb - Evolution of a New Media

I have to admit that the nature of the media has changed an awful lot since I was a kid. I still remember when the only home computers were little more than games machines and the internet consisted of a dial-up modem where you would connect to text based bulliten boards. Mind you, the humble dial-up is actually quite old - they were around in the eighties, though the original dial-up modems looked a lot different to the ones that we are familiar with.

Actually, these are called analogue modems
Anyway, I'm just going to have a brief overlook of how the nature of media has changed in the 21st Century, and while I'll been looking at how a number of websites have disrupted the traditional media, I won't be specifically looking at any of them (I'll save that for another post). Firstly I'll look at how media existed in my childhood, and then how aspects of the media have been undermined by the rise of the internet.

Mind you, the traditional media has no one to blame but themselves for their decline namely because they could see this shift coming from a long way off. In fact I recently read a book about journalism in the 21st century, and how during the 90s a number of newspapers saw the opportunity with the rise of the digital age, but due to their conservative nature, did nothing about it. However, when the tsunami of the modern internet hit them they were too far behind the proverbial eight-ball to actually do anything about it.

Traditional Media

Back when I was growing up the media existed in three forms - the newspaper, the radio, and the television. Of those three the newspaper is the oldest, dating back to the 18th century and the rise of the middle class. Radio began to appear when the radio was invented, as did the television, though the introduction of these new forms of media was slow because not only had the price drop to allow the average punter to afford one, but the infrastructure (such as television and radio stations) needed to be built. I remember a teacher in high school telling me that he went onto an American warship when he was a kid (during World War II) and seeing televisions, but none of them worked because the infrastructure had not been built in Australia. However, the rise of the radio and the television never managed to undermine the newspaper as the internet has.

The thing with the traditional media was that they didn't necessarily make their money from people subscribing to their services (and in Australia, up until the early nineties, there were only five channels in the capital cities and they were all free to air), but from advertisers, and when it came to advertising the newspaper was the king. The thing with television and radio is that their ads could only exist in a point in time - such as during a commercial break. Once the break was over the commercial was gone. Mind you, that wasn't a bad thing for the television stations because if a company wanted it's product to reach more audiences then it had to buy more airtime, or airtime during a time when a lot of people would be watching - prime time. It was a lovely little money spinner for the TV and Radio stations.

However newspapers had something that television and radio couldn't offer - cheap advertising space that didn't rely upon point in time: the classifieds. The thing is that the traditional media didn't sell content to viewers of readers, they sold an audience to the advertisers, and the newspaper's biggest money spinner was the classifieds section - here the ordinary punter could pay a fee and attempt to sell a car, or a kitchen cabinet, or an employer could advertise for staff. In fact the only way somebody could get rid of unwanted goods was to advertise in a newspapers (or sell them to a second-hand store, though you could generally get a better price if you sold it directly).

The other thing that the print media (newspapers and magazines) offered was opinion and content. The thing is that the barrier to entry was incredibly high, and if you wanted somebody's opinion on something there would be countless magazines where professional writers would provide that opinion. Mind you, due to the barriers to entry, only certain views would be available through this media, and the editor had a final say with what was printed, and what was not. Mind you, some fringe opinion was available, particularly with the socialists who would flog off their newspapers on the street corner, however what you have available in your local newsagent was the only opinion you had access to - whether it be political, or what the latest movie was like. 

However, the internet was going change that, and change it a lot.

Dumping Useless Stuff

I remember when I first heard about ebay. I was in my first year of law school and I was doing a project for contract law. One of our team members worked for a computer company and he was on the ball when it came to the latest technology and developments. At the time I had already had three years of experience with the internet, but I still didn't know about everything that was out there, and one of these developments was going to take the classified world by storm - Ebay.

Basically the website began when the developer wanted to build his pez collection, and realised that the internet created the opportunity to connect with people that he normally wouldn't have been able to connect with. However, what his development (or should I say invention) did was that it cut out the middle man - the newspaper. Instead of resorting to ringing up the local newspaper and placing an add in the classifieds section, you could simply create an Ebay account and list your item for sale. The other thing that Ebay offered was a much greater audience - in fact it offered a world wide audience. The traditional classifieds were limited to either a city, or a small part of the city, where as Ebay opened up the entire world.

Mind you, classifieds weren't just limited to Ebay, and even now you have other sites, such as Gumtree, that are nipping at Ebay's dominance. Ebay may be been the first, and the most well known, but they are not the only one. However, many of these other sites generally pick up people that have become disaffected with Ebay. What the internet offers though is a much greater audience. In the former times one would only be limited to the people who either bought, or happened to read, a particular newspaper, however these days it doesn't cost anything to browse on Ebay, or Gumtree, or even Amazon, which means that the audience is a lot more fluid.

Other sites, such as and have also eaten into the newspaper's traditional source of income. With the rise of the internet, websites have also appeared to bypass the newspaper, and the associated costs, in selling big ticket items. Carsales is now the major website that people visit to purchase second hand cars, though buying a second hand car through Carsales probably doesn't lessen the risk that one would face when buying a car from the newspaper, but then again does anybody trust a second-hand car dealer.

The same goes with While it is a lot easier, and cheaper, to advertise houses, and open inspections, the real estate industry still has its talons dug deeply into the housing market. However, these days people don't buy the newspaper to find out when the next open inspection is, rather they jump onto the internet (and you can actually buy cars, and houses, over Ebay as well).

Hiring the Lackey

I remember back in the days when I was looking for a job, both before I returned to school and afterwards. Every Wednesday and Saturday I would buy the newspaper, open up to the job classifieds, and peruse them for a job that I was qualified to perform. Mind you, back in those days you either had to hand write, or type out, your resume. In fact I remember some employers would even specifically request a hand written resume. Once again the internet has changed everything, and the traditional way of looking for work has changed a lot (or at least the way I would do it - the best way is still going from door to door and networking).

The rise of the internet has stolen this role of the newspaper as well. In fact I haven't bought a newspaper in ages, particularly to look for a job. These days I just jump on the internet and peruse the job sites. Actually, this makes looking for a job much easier because it doesn't matter if you forget to get the newspaper because the website is always there, and it is updated in real time. Also, you can put your resume up on these sites so that potential employers can approach you - it is much easier to put yourself out there now because employers will actually peruse the internet looking for candidates.

Actually, the internet has also given rise a professional networking sites, the most well known being Linkdin. I am hesitant to use the word social because it actually isn't a social network, it is a professional network. In fact what Linkdin does is that your network can endorse you for various skills, and this actually makes it a lot easier for potential employers to look for the right person to fill their position. Okay, I do have a Linkdin account, however I rarely, if ever, actually use the site - for some reason I prefer to use the traditional employment site, not that I have actually been looking for work over the past few months.

What's the Movie Like?

Okay, newspapers generally didn't have a huge section dedicated to book and movie reviews, or at least from what I can remember, however there where always specialist television programs and magazines for that. However, the internet has once again changed all of that. Mind you, I rarely, if ever, paid any attention to the opinions of journalists as to movies, namely because more likely than not our tastes would differ. Instead I would generally refer to friends who had either read the book or seen the movie. Still, the traditional media would be a go to source for opinion on such things.

However, once again, the internet has opened up a vastly different world. In fact, the problem with the traditional media is that you generally only got one, maybe two, opinions, and these opinions generally didn't reflect those of society at large - everybody has different tastes, and those tastes generally don't coincide with that of the columnists. However, what we now have are sites such as IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) and Rotten Tomatoes for films, and Goodreads and Booklikes for books. I won't go into details about the pros and cons of these sites, but rather indicate what they actually do.

What the internet has allowed is for people to put their thoughts about either a movie or a book for others to consider. Mind you, the algorithm usually coallates all of the reviews (usually by the star rating) and produces an average rating for the movie. Some even split the ratings between the professional and amateur reviewers (not that there is actually a huge difference). Some sites even function as a form of social media platform, which means that you can connect with people who have similar tastes and see what they thought of a book (though I have yet to find a movie site that is actually a social platform - from what I can tell Rotten Tomatoes isn't a social site, and IMDB definately isn't one).

Actually, the social media sphere has gone even further to include businesses (though some, such as Zomato, are limited to restaurants). Here we can not only find a business, but also find out from others what this business is like. This provides a much wider dimension than the yellow pages used to do, enabling you to actually know what a service is like as opposed to simply finding a service in your local area - it is all well and good to find a local plumber, but what we really want to know is if this plumber is any good. The problem with this though is that out of all the internet users, only about 5% (or something like that) will actually put up a rating - they say that of the internet, 80% browse, 15% comment, 5% create content. Still, at least you can get somebody's opinion.

The Blogosphere

Talking about comment, there used to be the time that the only time you could get somebody's opinion was to either talk to a friend, or to read the newspaper, and I have to admit that newspaper opinion tends not to reflect my own opinion. However, the rise of the internet has create a forum for anybody, and everybody, to put their own opinion up for people to consider, to read, and to interact with. Mind you, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allow this, but they tend to only offer a limited amount of space (and generally you only post links).

However platforms such as Blogger and Wordpress allow for much deeper discussion and opinion, and also allows people to follow the opinion of those that they tend to agree with (namely because, at least in my case, I just end up getting angry with people who have an opinion that is a polar opposite to mine, but then again this could be the cause of the immense polarisation we are seeing these days). As such, I can read from a much wider range of opinion thans simply the limited opinion that we have with the newspapers and magazines.

Actually, blogging is much, much more than just opinion - it allows you to write about anything - book and movie reviews, literary and political discussion, or simply having recepies for cakes and hints for a variety of DIY projects. However, what this is doing, once again, is killing the traditional media. In days gone buy, if you wanted recepies, or DIY tips, you would go to the bookstore, or the newsagent, and purchase either a magazine or even a book. These days you simply type in 'Chille Con Carne recipie' into Google and suddenly you have a multitude of recepies pop up for you to try out. Actually, it goes much further, because if I want to learn how to use Unix, or even how to create a webpage, I can simply go to one of the many sites as opposed to getting around to visiting a bookshop and buying a book.

The New Television

The internet has even changed the nature of television. Okay, while direct streaming services such as Netflix (among many others - each of the television stations in Australia has their own subscription based streaming service) the internet has also created the opportunity for people to produce their own videos, and in fact their own series - Youtube is probably the benchmark, but there are other video services such as Vmeo, that also perform a similar role. However it is Youtube that has really changed the nature of the modern media.

Out of all of the traditional forms of media, radio and television probably had the highest startup costs. The reason for this was bandwidth. In Australia (and in other places), not only did not need to set up some really expensive infrastructure, but you also needed a license to be able to run your own television channel, and not surprisingly these were quite limited. In fact the amount of time and energy to provide content was enormous. However Youtube has changed all of that - you don't need a license to set up a Youtube channel, nor do you need to continually provide content (though you probably need to spend money on decent equipment if you want your work to be of a professional quality).

For instance I have a Youtube channel with consists entirely of trains, trams, and ferries:

Oh, and we can't forget the good old cat videos:

Actually, Youtube is a lot more than just train and cat videos (though by looking at some people's play lists you would probably not realise that) as you can probably find anything and everything on here. In fact one friend of mine told me that some guy has a channel dedicated to elevators (though it makes me wonder what he is looking at on Youtube because you simply don't accidentally stumble across elevator videos). Actually, you can even access paid content, such as movies and television series, which I like because it means I don't have to fork out money for Netflix (because I don't watch that much television these days), and I can still watch movies that I don't want to buy since pretty much every video store in my local area has closed down.

Anyway, I'll finish this off with another cat video - enjoy.

Creative Commons License

The Interweb - Evolution of a New Media by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

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