1. ‘It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves—the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public—has stopped being a problem.’ (Clay Shirky, ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable’,http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/). Are digital and networked media dismantling the “publishing industry”? Is it being replaced? If so, what is replacing it? If not, what is the publishing industry becoming, and how is it doing so? Are there new difficulties and complexities or expenses involved?
Shirky mentions that “the core problem publishing solves – the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public – has stopped being a problem” (2009). This is true to a large extent. Digital and networked media are indeed dismantling the existing publishing industry, and have done so in numerous ways. The rise of online news sites and digital newspapers that can be subscribed and accessed through devices (iPad etc.) are only some of the many examples of how we are integrating digital and networked media into our lives. Even so, I do not think that these forms of media are replacing the publishing industry. The word ‘replace’ is an inappropriate term to use in our current circumstances today. Newspapers, magazines and other similar forms of publishing are currently still being distributed and purchased through many different intermediaries. Rather than replacing them, I think that digital and networked media are actually supplementing these traditional forms of publishing with their versatility instead. The print industry seems to be adapting well to these emerging forms of media online. Media convergence, “a process whereby new technologies are accommodated by existing media and communication industries and cultures”, can be used to describe this (Dwyer 2010, p.2). However, this accommodation does not occur without the involvement of new difficulties, complexities or expenses. These arguments will be further elaborated in the rest of my essay.
Newspapers have been around for a very long time. They are used by individuals for “entertainment and information, as well as for keeping up to date with the world of public events” (Balnaves, Donald & Donald 2001, p.22). The emergence of online news sites, however, has added a new way in which such information can be accessed. CNN.com and ABCNews are some examples of popular news sites that are widely accessed by online users. Such sites provide “instant delivery of up-to-the minute news”, an advantage that the print industry is not able to compete with (Balnaves, Donald & Donald 2001, p.24). Besides the use of pictures and text, these sites also provide both audio and video to supplement them. CNN.com, for example, is known to feature videos and audios that can be streamed live. Others such as CBS News and ABCNews enable readers to subscribe to their newsletters or news alerts. In Australia, The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald are two examples of newspapers that have brought their news online, and have adapted well in providing instant updates to online users.
However, newspapers are not the only form of publishing that is doing this. Magazines are also increasingly making use of digital media to cater for online users, and therefore maintain readership. Marie Claire, Vanity Fair and National Geographic are some examples that have done this.
In recent times, news and magazine organizations have taken even further steps ahead when they introduced applications on mobile devices such as the iPad, and e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The Daily Telegraph, for example, has come up with three strategies to ensure convenience for their readers. Firstly, it has developed an optimised version of their news site ideal for smart phones. Secondly, it has created an application called The Daily Telegraph eNewspaper, which is basically a digital version of the actual newspaper in print. This is catered towards readers who still wish to feel as if they were flipping through a hard copy of the newspaper while using an e-reader or iPad. Personally, I find this quite ironic. This hints that there are many who still prefer getting their news in the form of print. Lastly, The Daily Telegraph also has an application that is designed specially for the iPad, which consists of exclusive news and features.
One main issue or complexity that is involved with news in the form of digital media is the implementation of paywalls. As paywalls require readers to pay certain amounts of money on a regular basis in order to gain full access to news online, news organisations would lose readers who refuse to spend such money. For example, Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun has recently implemented a paywall for access to “premium content” which includes news regarding sports, crime and others (Rourke 2012).
Books are also following this digital trend, as eBooks are now available at sites such as eBooks.com. Such a site enables the download of digital books with the use of smartphones, e-readers and even computers. These act as examples of media convergence, “a situation in which multiple media systems coexist and where media content flows fluidly across them” (Jenkins 2006, cited in Dwyer 2010, p.24).
Despite the fact that news organisations are converging to deliver news and information in various forms, I do not think that they are attempting to replace the print industry. By bringing news online, they should instead experience an increase of interest and readership. Members of Generation Y are generally known to interact well with most things involving media and digital technologies. As the Internet serves as a global network, these tech-savvy individuals would then be able to access information that they were unable to get a hold of physically before.
Until today, newspapers and magazines are being distributed and sold at newsstands, convenient stores and even supermarkets. A man might buy a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald from a newsstand before he boards a train to work so as to ensure that he is kept occupied during the entire ride. A lady who is queuing up to pay for her groceries at Woolworths might pick up a copy of a tabloid magazine and browse through it while she waits for the person in front of her to leave. She might even decide to purchase it in the end. These examples illustrate the extent to which we incorporate traditional media into our everyday lives.
Newspapers and magazines do not simply act as sources for news and information (Balnaves, Donald & Donald 2001, p.24). According to Balnaves, Donald and Donald, “Newspapers deliver a sense of collective, shared identity as well as facts and figures, and it is this aspect that is likely to be more durable…the silent ritual of reading the newspaper is a way of anchoring ourselves in the world of passing events – a way of living in the present – and of establishing a secular communion with our fellow citizens” (2001, p.24). Many may not realise this, but I certainly think that newspapers and magazines have shaped, and are continuing to shape the ways that we live. As mentioned by Finnemann, “while old media are refunctionalized/repurposed, they are also influential actors in the development of Internet forms” (Finnemann 2006, cited in Dwyer 2010, p.32).
News and information have become so essential in our lives to the extent that they now take up digital forms in order to cater towards our changing demands. Therefore, rather than being replaced, I think that the publishing industry is extending its resources to digital media. This point is further supported by Dwyer, “what we have is a process of co-evolution, including the development of a variety of new inter-relationships” (Finnemann 2006, cited in Dwyer 2010, p.32).
The publishing industry is simply like an assemblage which has now become a part of an even larger form of an assemblage, the Internet. In each of these assemblages, their elements have changed in order for integration or convergence to occur. Their relations have also changed, such that there is now increasing linkage or relevance between the both of them. For example, since content such as videos and audio cannot be published in print, they are available on the news sites as supplements.
However, this extension of news and information does not stop here. Networked media plays an increasingly significant role in the distribution of news and information. News organisations have been taking advantages of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook not only to inform and update, but to also boost readership. For most news sites, readers are given the options to ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘recommend’ their articles.
On Facebook, there is an existing feature whereby articles that friends have read are made visible on a user’s News Feed. Another similar feature, which displays “trending articles”, is also one of Facebook’s latest additions. This, however, have resulted in “critics complaining about clutter in their News Feeds” (Greene 2012). According to Greene, “Even in testing, in what appears to be a limited number of users, the Trending Articles feature is already drawing the ire of some Facebook users” (Greene 2012). These features might be different attempts by news organisations at encouraging more readers to visit their sites. These efforts, however, are not turning out to be very successful.
News organisations continue to display their immense support for networked media by creating their very own accounts on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. News and information are being distributed through these platforms. For example, a link to an article, accompanied by a short headline, is posted as a ‘tweet’ to inform users of a news update. This provides convenience for online users who are only a click away from getting their news and information.
With the increasing use and popularity among social media sites such as Twitter, users also have growing tendencies to produce and contribute content. Twitter, for example, has currently “140 million monthly active users producing 400 million tweets daily” (Shih 2012). As mentioned before, news sites would usually encourage readers to share or recommend their articles through the use of these social platforms. In addition, online news sites also provide platforms for public discussion through comments that users can post. This is another disadvantage for the print industry, as it does not possess such an instantaneous function.
There has also been considerable discussion on how the use of Twitter enables users to spread news and information at a much faster rate when compared to official news sources. For example, the news of Whitney Houston’s death earlier this year was revealed first by an unofficial source, followed by the press (Murphy 2012).
Although this does prove that Twitter is efficient as a real-time information network, how credible are the sources for information that are distributed on its site? According to an online article from CNN, it mentions that “social networking has made us all news sources…missteps and misinformation get issued” (Leopold 2012). The trend of posting fake reports of the deaths of celebrities is on Twitter is one example.
Broadcast media (television and radio etc.) is also currently experiencing impacts similar to those of the print industry. There is an increasing availability of various content on sites such as YouTube and MySpace. For example, music can be streamed on MySpace. Many bands or music artistes use this feature to promote their music. Another example is Vevo, an online platform which provides music videos and entertainment.
YouTube has become one of the world’s most popular video-sharing sites where all types of content ranging from Vlogs, music videos and other original content are uploaded. In the past, music videos were mostly only available on television channels such as the popular Music TeleVision (MTV). However, the growth of digital and networked media has brought such content online, where sharing is made significantly easier.
iTunes enable users to purchase music in digital formats. This is a big contrast to the past, when music was sold mainly through physical copies of CDs and other similar forms. Live streaming of radio stations have also been made available online. This allows listeners to tune in from anywhere, and without the need of an actual radio device. Compared to music stores, which archives would probably consist of stacks and rows of things such as CDs, iTunes is a form of archive that is probably always easier to store and organize since everything on it are in digital formats.
Although these examples of digital media are convenient such that they can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, and at any time, piracy is a big issue. Although it is illegal, sites such as LimeWire provided users with a program which allowed them to download and share copyrighted material.
Whether distributed through online, print or broadcast, I think that it really depends on every individual to decide on the type of content that they would like to aggregate. For example, some may prefer to access news online, while others may decide to stick with the familiarity of traditional newspapers.
In conclusion, I have stated in my essay that although new media is dismantling the publishing industry, it has no intention of replacing it. Instead, the publishing industry is being supplemented, while it also extends its resources online through the process of media convergence. The publishing industry has also largely influenced the digital and networked media that exists today.
Balnaves, M, Donald, J, Donald, SH 2001, The Penguin Atlas of Media and Information, Penguin Putnam, New York.
Dwyer, T 2010, Media Convergence, Bell and Bain Ltd, Glasgow.
Greene, J 2012, ‘Facebook’s Trending Articles Finds Foes Among the Clutter’, 1 May, accessed 5 May, <http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57425557-93/facebooks-trending-articles-finds-foes-among-the-clutter/>.
Leopold, T 2012, ‘In Today’s Warp-Speed World, Online Missteps Spread Faster than Ever’, 6 March, accessed 2 May, <http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/06/tech/social-media/misinformation-social-media/index.html>.
Murphy, S 2012, ‘Twitter Breaks News of Whitney Houston Death 27 Minutes Before Press’, 13 February, accessed 6 May, <http://mashable.com/2012/02/12/whitney-houston-twitter/>.
Rourke, A 2012, ‘Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun Launches Paywall’, The Guardian, 13 April, accessed 6 June, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/apr/13/murdoch-herald-sun-paywall>.
Shih, Gerry, 2012, ‘Twitter’s Mobile Ad Take Strong’, 7 June, accessed 7 June, <http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/7059441/Twitters-mobile-ad-take-strong>.
Shirky, C 2009, ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable’, weblog, 13 March, accessed 6 May, <http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/>.