Friday, June 20, 2014

How many media academics does it take to work out what's going on?

Media Show interview with Matthew Gentzkow, "a pioneer in the field of media economics" in which he concludes that internet advertising wouldn't turn off-line pounds into on-line pennies if people spent as long looking at news content on screen as they used to do on paper.

This makes sense in academe but it's not much help in the outside world because it's simply never going to happen.

The professor points out that newspapers were in decline long before the internet, which is true. However the habit of newspaper reading was inseparable from the habit of newspaper buying. Once you'd paid for a newspaper you had an investment in getting some value out of it. You read a few regulars, a couple of things you'd never read before and thanks to the happy serendipity of the interface between hand, eye and paper, you were exposed to a lot of things you happened to pass by on the way, some of which were adverts. When you'd finished it you passed it on to somebody else who would do the same in their own way.

Those habits have gone and they're never going to come back. Neither are they going to be replicated in accelerated form via the internet.  It's no longer anything to do with the news the papers happen to provide, which is what the world of media academics spends its time fretting about. It's entirely a question of how users behave. Tech understands this, which is why it changes its products all the time in response to the way they're used. No wonder it's stolen the media's lunch.

1 comment:

  1. This is certainly true in my case. My daily habits have changed significantly. Two things that I've noted: 1. Major lay-offs at the "newspaper" I regularly read have seen a sharp decline in the quality of content which has compelled to use multiple sources (often at the same time), but I still haven't quite broken the habit of going back to said newspaper online - old habits die hard; and 2. Like a dinosaur I still subscribe to one magazine almost entirely because I want to contribute to keeping it afloat, but I don't read it in the same way I used to on a weekend. Instead, the magazines are stockpiled in a draw (along with old issues of The Word) for that rainy day that happens more infrequently, it seems.

    With regards to point 1. I'm still looking for a decent content aggregator - can you recommend one?

    I'm willing to pay for decent content but the major news providers have yet to provide something that a middle aged news and culture junkie would want to read on a regular basis.