Trends in the journalism business and content creation: Centralized digital power and our virtual world (news roundup for March 26, 2016)

1. The Internet isn\’t distributing media power, it is concentrating it

From Joshua Benton on NiemanLab: The game of concentration: The Internet is pushing the American news business to New York and the coasts

“The Internet doesn’t spread things apart — it pushes them together,” Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist. “You’re seeing more of these winner-take-all effects.”

Modern digital publications in the United States (and, I\’d suggest, around the globe) will be based in huge cities to facilitate access to funding and talent. This is bringing a uniformity to the political leanings of the ecosystem of media powerhouses because they\’re staffed by liberal, urban residents. Those values don\’t play well with everyone in the United States (and other smaller population centers in other countries), and we\’ll see stronger reactions from the groups of people who fail to see their story reflected in the narratives being embraced by professionals immersed in a different culture. Does this explain the rise of Donald Trump?

I don\’t fully agree that the worry is that the concentration of media power results in stories being told about the locations in which they\’re located; the business and editorial models of leading digital publications based in places like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco rely upon covering everything. Vice Media, BuzzFeed, Business Insider, Gawker Media, Mashable, Vox Media and others want global audiences because that\’s where the numbers are. The stories reflect that. The worry, and I think this is what Joshua meant, is about the narrowing lens — one reflecting the concerns and values of megalopolis residents — through which we view stories.

I wonder if there are parallels in the business world; look at the structure of a corporation — an abstract entity with owners all over the place united only by their investment in shares — vs. a locally owned business. A corporation (wait, some corporations) views the world, crudely speaking, as a resource to exploit to generate money for its owners. It is not necssarily working to represent the values of a local community, even if its headquarters are based in one, because it serves its distributed owners, not locals.

This analysis doesn\’t account for the important role that local freelancers (and foreign correspondents) play in bringing authentic (or at least more authentic) stories from locations outside of the corporate headquarters. The command and control centers may be in New York, for example, but the soldiers are everywhere — but is this structure financially robust enough to support the story-supply system? And to repeat the points above, if the editors are in New York, they\’re filtering work from abroad through their own viewpoints.

Overall, what I see is the emergence of a global urban citizen; my guess is we\’ll see this population of people develop more formalized community bonds and values as the Internet further develops to make virtual/mediated reality even more the norm.

But ultimately, we are beings inside bodies, and those bodies need food, shelter and other bodies to be around. We are tied to our places, at least until we go full Matrix.

2. Computers will do more and better writing

Feed your plotlines and character descriptions into the machine, and out comes a story? Why not: A Computer Wrote A Novel — And Nearly Won A Literary Prize For It

And Narrative Science has been underway for quite a while, and I assume will only get better: 30 Clients Using Computer-Generated Stories Instead of Writers

And computers will do our repackaging for us — sorting information streams to conform to specific knowledge-gathering goals. It\’s happening in bits and pieces; asking Google Maps for directions is one basic example. How far away can it be to ask a machine to give you a comprehensive analysis of Clinton\’s foreign policy statements as revealed in thousands of articles across the information ecosystem?

Sometimes things don\’t go so well: Tay: Microsoft issues apology over racist chatbot fiasco

3. The Internet is moving toward becoming a real-time, always-on virtual reality

Google’s placing its own bet on mobile livestreaming with YouTube Connect

Wouldn\’t it be odd to discover that all of our traditions of storytelling and media production are actually technologies that could also be replaced by machines that emphasize one sort of communication over another?

What if a story was just our old version of a hard drive? What if it was just a convenient way to storye information? And given the limits of the mind, we had to design those stories in certain ways. But machines lack the same limits, and so we design stories differently?

Is talking face-to-face the ultimate technology?

How do you survive and thrive in virtual world, and how does it operate in conjunction with a real world?

But like I said above: We are bodies, tied to the limits and needs of our biological machine — until we give ourselves over to the Matrix. That is the ultimate baseline for power, values and decisions.

4. Information distributors ultimately own the content, but they are nothing without the creators

Forgetting the homepage means forgetting control: NowThis

But what does \”control\” mean in a digital, virtual world?

Digital info distributors need info to create their value, but they don\’t want to pay to produce it — that is expensive, risky, slow, complex and unpredictable. So they need the people filling the pipes. Who has more power?

But you can bet that whatever community you\’re trying to serve, Facebook already offers all the sophisticated tools and conversation they need: Facebook is the new Excel

Yet isn\’t it tempting to just let Facebook take care of all that difficult audience building and monetizing for you? Facebook’s Instant Articles Advertising Fixes Win Over Publishers

5. Bots, messaging, texting, yep

Is your Facebook Messenger app ready? Facebook’s Messenger Bot Store could be the most important launch since the App Store

Maybe Chatfuel can help.

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