Friday, September 18, 2015

Of ads and adblockers

This article in The Verge is an interesting case study in "chicken little" alarmism about the future of the web (or rather, of "traditional" media-dominant web), but also in "old" versus "new" models of media production/distribution. There's also an interesting re-write of history going on here, not only in terms of the history of the internet, but in terms of the history of media more generally. The author (Nilay Patel):
Media has always compromised user experience for advertising: that's why magazine stories are abruptly continued on page 96, and why 30-minute sitcoms are really just 22 minutes long. Media companies put advertising in the path of your attention, and those interruptions are a valuable product. Your attention is a valuable product.
Granted, the "audience commodity" (Smythe 1981) has been around for quite some time, but there have indeed been other models for supporting media production. And now that "audiences" have morphed into "users" and now (increasingly) into user-producers, the idea that ads pay for content production and/or distribution is under serious challenge. Although there are still plenty of examples where content is indeed produced by professional, paid laborers (creative workers, information workers, artists, authors, journalists), some of the major players involved rely pretty heavily on immaterial, unpaid and user-made/generated contributions. Even in terms of constructing and maintaining the infrastructures and distribution systems (various parts of reddit come to mind here). Thoughts???