SxSW : Digital Voices, Meet Media Consolidation

Subtitle: Who Will Speak Truth To Power?

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The political adage, never get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, rested on the tremendous capital costs involved in running a newspaper. Those costs have been swept away by a cheap digital media tsunami that has unleashed millions of voices. Media conglomerates are shuttering newspapers, buying digital upstarts like the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and launching vertical hyperlocals like Patch. The nature of the power law means that A-list sites get a disproportionate share of eyeballs. As Clay Shirky wrote in 2003, “the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality.” So much for millions of voices. Let’s talk about the impact of media consolidation on public interest (political) journalism and civic life and explore our role as disrupters of the status quo. Examples include crowd-sourced visualization of media consolidation and digital media literacy modules, modules that need you for maximum impact.

Questions Addressed

  • What is the state of digital media ownership in the U.S.?
  • What does media consolidation in the U.S. look like?
  • Why the long tail is not a savior for robust and varied political discourse
  • Why is a free press – digital or analog – crucial for democracy?
  • Whose responsibility is it to watchdog the media?
Kathy Gill teaches journalism and digital media at the University of Washington, has written about politics for and is the technology policy analyst at The Moderate Voice. In a former life, she was a state and federal lobbyist. The challenges presented by monopolistic and oligopolistic markets fascinated her before she really knew what those words meant.

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Supporting Material (in dev at the moment)

Visualization Inspiration

On Media Consolidation

  • The New Media Monopoly, Ben Bagdikian
On The Power Law Paradox

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