Media Monsters of the Millennium

As time and technology march on, occupations, professions, and major market players adapt or fade away. I can recall as a freshman in college being told that newspapers had already had their heyday decades ago. News isn’t going away, but paper is being replaced by screens the size of your hand and much, much larger, with speed (but not really depth) that travels around the world in split seconds.

 

Former Congressman Charles Brownson (obscure Indiana Republican) is quoted as saying “I never quarrel with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” Soon enough, the vast majority of the public will not understand what that saying means. The barrels are fewer and the previously unchallengeable media giants have already been eclipsed by digital reporters. The digital giants make the venerable, unchallengeable old-school giants look like ants crawling on the shoes of the new giants, ready to be crushed. It used to be harsh criticism on the front page of the New York Times meant the end of a public career, while now it’s a ten-second blurb on Facebook.

 

I loved reading the New York Times on Sundays, even though I cannot say I have done that lately, mostly because of work, not for lack of desire. For one thing, the Sunday New York Times Review of Books was a place to read some of the brightest writers commenting on some of the most significant books. It was fascinating, and added a lot to my understanding of the world. I don’t see Google or Facebook doing this for me, though I must confess I Google for information in research and I Facebook not at all. We are at a turning point. The digital media is a wave that will carry us into the future, and the remnants of the older, broken media giants will wash up on the beach, overwhelmed by the digital tidal wave, like it or not. The question before us is whether we will allow certain monopolies to carry too much influence, at least on a regional basis.

 

The smallest of the traditional media, the local community papers, have been hit hardest. As the costs of ink, paper and distribution rose, readership and advertising revenue went down, spelling the demise of the community newspapers. Advertising went digital from paper and ink, and target marketing (if you weren’t aware of Google Analytics) went so specific that it had names of potential customers on lists in databases. Paper and ink couldn’t survive very well in that environment.

 

According to a report by CNBC, Google and Facebook are dominating “83% of all digital ad revenue growth and 73% of all U.S. digital advertising.” Those numbers are hurting more than the hometown local papers; they are taking apart the advertising business as we know it, and the tech-savvy digital publishers are having almost as hard a time as the old paper and ink media firms.

 

Google, that lovable teddy bear internet firm that espouses “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world” (as quoted by an unnamed vice president) is taking over the news market, with Facebook close on their heels. Jonah Peretti, CEO of digital publisher BuzzFeed says that Google is “paying content creators far too little for the value they deliver to users.” And here I thought working for Google would be a dream come true. Like much writing of that nature, it is probably “work for hire” where the writer dashes out the work and the publication owns the material, unless otherwise specified.

 

In 2017, Google’s YouTube lost millions in revenue as firms like Verizon and Walmart pulled their ads because their ads were being run next to videos promoting hate speech or extremist views, as was reported in The Guardian. Fortune magazine reported in 2017 that all of the growth in digital advertising has gone to Google and Facebook. Jason Kint of Digital Content Next estimates that growth for Google and Facebook was a whopping 89% in 2016. If you can think of any business in the U.S. that is expanding by 89%, please let me know, and also forward to me their Human Resources department email.

 

Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser stated: “as the two rose to capture 77% of gross spending vs. 72% in the year ago period, with 99% of industry growth attributable to the two companies.” They’re good, they’re smart and savvy. They offer “targeted marketing” meaning that you aren’t spending money on a billboard hoping that one of the thousands who drive by might want your product; you’re spending advertising money on targeted potential clients who show a confirmed history of tendencies to buy your product. If there are any numbers I do not have, it is the increases in revenue when it transfers its advertising to Google or Facebook, but people making the decisions think they are important. I have yet to witness the testimonial of any firm claiming that Google or Facebook doubled or tripled their sales; not that it hasn’t happened, mind you. Have you ever seen Google or Facebook advertising for your business? Where do you contact then? Are they hiring salespeople? Or is all this just some subplot trying to undermine our economy?

 

In the past, the government restricted media firms from controlling too much of any market within certain areas, in fear of undue influence and a monopoly on news. Facebook and Google have, in quite a short time, managed to gain great influence on media that would have never been allowed by past regulation had they been a traditional media player. While it cannot be said that Google or Facebook are forcing people to use their media, undue influence is rearing its ugly head. The number of people who are reading newspapers is dwindling, and is substantially down from years past, and their numbers keep shrinking as the traditional newspapers and magazines go digital and try to make enough money to stay in business. Many of the local smaller-circulation papers have already closed up shop, for reasons already mentioned. 

 

It is rather obvious that Google and Facebook have not done well with controlling “fake news” and the 2017 YouTube accident where respectable brands were too closely associated with extremist views and hate speech was not kind to Google. The Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election should give any thinking person pause, to consider what these firms are doing. While we would not wish to deny them the ability to make money, it is rather obvious that they have not exercised due diligence in their allowing customers to post things on their media.

 

Admittedly, they’re new at this, but that is one of the problems. Being new, the older news reporters and editors of the almost obsolete media who are being cast aside could probably do better, if given an opportunity. But that opportunity is not likely to arrive.

 

The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2018: “U.S. antitrust laws, designed to promote fair competition, and prevent consolidation, actually make it harder for traditional news outlets to compete with Silicon Valley giants. Under current law, for instance, news publishers cannot get together and agree to withhold their product unless they receive a return on their investment…News publishers should be able to use their collective in negotiations with big tech.”

 

In 1982, AT&T was forced to break up because it was, in effect, a monopoly. If you haven’t lived long enough, you might not notice that competition made phone fees much lower. Businesses choose Facebook and Google because they have a competitive advantage, and that’s fine for now. Like any business model, others will see it and hopefully bring on some competition. In the meantime, according to The Wall Street Journal of March 2, consumer products producer Proctor and Gamble slashed their digital advertising budget by $200 million last year, after they concluded that such spending was “largely wasteful.”

 

I have suggested for some time that someone will make a fortune by designing software that blocks all of the clicks and then offers the clicks to firms like Google and Facebook, for a price. Internet users are at present just giving away valuable information crucial to advertisers like Google and Facebook. Perhaps with all of the technology and all of the geeks in Silicon Valley and elsewhere trying to get rich on the internet, someone will design the software that allows the consumer to sell their clicks for money or free merchandise.

Comments

George N Romey Added Mar 4, 2018 - 10:23am
It’s scary to me the loss of privacy that will come with these Internet monsters. Recently I applied for a job and they wanted access to all my social media accounts. I declined.
 
What’s more people will get filtered news or what fits their beliefs. This will divide us even more, the goal of FB and Google.
Autumn Cote Added Mar 4, 2018 - 10:26am
Please note, it's against the rules to post articles here unless you comment on the work of others.
Pardero Added Mar 4, 2018 - 10:31am
Browsers such as Brave  do not mine for data.
Zerohedge is unfiltered news.
One has a choice to avoid being a data-mined indoctrinated chump.
Leroy Added Mar 4, 2018 - 2:15pm
With the so called net neutrality rules, the FANGs more or less created the rules then exempted themselves.  Today, we see them throttling news that doesn't suit their agenda. 
 
Another fine article, Jeff.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 4, 2018 - 2:28pm
Yes George, I tell them I am, on only one, and that's enough for me.
Thanks for comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 4, 2018 - 2:29pm
Pardero thanks for the browsers, that's good to know. I knew that there were some out there, as one of the machines that I was filling in for was using one of them, but to be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the speed or the selection of websites. Thanks for the comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 4, 2018 - 2:32pm
Thanks Leroy for the comments and, yeah, I'm contemplating an article on the FANGs and why they are in need of being broken up, just as AT&T was. When you look at the FANGs it is truly scary.
Thanks for the comments Leroy.
George N Romey Added Mar 4, 2018 - 2:48pm
It will be the FANGS that ultimately crash the stock market. Like 1929 one day someone is going to wake up and realize it’s mostly hype. What comes afterwards? Just look at what happened from 29 to 32.
Dino Manalis Added Mar 4, 2018 - 3:47pm
Digital media still depends on major news sources!
Dave Volek Added Mar 4, 2018 - 5:17pm
Jeff
 
Another great essay on our ever-changing world.
 
I have been advertising on Google since 2006, for a variety of my inventions (TDG is just one of them). I have to say that I have had no success whatsoever in any of these ad campaigns. I have done a smaller amount of advertising using FB. Again, no tangible results. 
 
Having said all that, my marketing budget is quite small. I should probably be spending at least 10x what I have spent to gain some traction. Unfortunately, my business matrix means I will never recover those costs.
 
Nonetheless, I still find it satisfying that the vehicles of Google and Facebook advertising are available. At least I have a way of reaching my potential audience for a small price. Traditional advertising is much more expensive.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 4, 2018 - 5:31pm
Jeff, one of my possessions from the past is a linotype slug with my name on it, courtesy of one of those small-town newspapers that is struggling. Indeed, my hometown paper now, the West Virginia Gazette is putting itself up for auction on the courthouse steps this week. Winning bidder gets to share in the glory of the Pulitzer Prize that the paper won last year.
 
Do no evil. That was Google's initial motto. But when the new technology allows for infinite expansion without any form of control, evil somehow creeps into the operation unbidden. The law of unintended consequences certainly applies to all of the FANG corporations. I myself only use Amazon as a supplier of last resort, but I'm one of the few, I'm afraid.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 4, 2018 - 7:30pm
George, you are exactly correct. The exponential growth of the tech firms has skewed the markets. Part of that skewing is that people are taking their growth as growth in the markets at large, and that is not the case. (Another essay, come to think of it.) When you take out the tech firms, the markets are not doing all that well. Thanks for the comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 4, 2018 - 7:36pm
Well Dave, depending on how long it stays on the market, there's always the chance of it exploding one day. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby didn't catch on until he had passed.- "In 1940, before dying of a massive heart attack in a Hollywood apartment at the age of 44, Fitzgerald earned a grand total of $13.13 in royalties." It's kind of like becoming a famous poet, the fastest way to become a famous poet is to die. Certainly, Dave, I wish your book well, and hope you see it blossom. There's always that chance. Thanks for the comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 4, 2018 - 7:40pm
Yes, Even, its sad to see traditional media go the way of all flesh. I think that we will miss the traditional media, and quite soon, especially with the media giants of today allowing "fake news."

“As Churchill said: 'A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots," was never more true than today.

opher goodwin Added Mar 5, 2018 - 5:20am
It seems to me that news is being condensed into fewer and fewer biased providers with political agendas.
That's worrying.
My Dad used to work in Fleet Street for National newspapers and receive the raw news directly from reporters. It was then filtered. It is the filtering and spin that creates the bias.
A number of people are going to the internet but there is a bias there too and it is potentially even worse. They all have an agenda.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 5, 2018 - 6:20am
Excellent point, Opher. And, for those who haven't been paying attention, Google heavily favored Hillary, until they realized Trump was the card to play. Thanks again for comments.
opher goodwin Added Mar 5, 2018 - 8:37am
Cheers Jeff.
Dave Volek Added Mar 5, 2018 - 10:05am
Jeff
I'm kind of hoping the book catches on before I have passed away. A little better for my pocketbook!
 
CBC did a documentary about how the Trump campaign team hired some professional Facebook marketers who cleverly designed ads for all sorts of graphics. I did a WB article on that.
 
If I were a conspiracy theory nut, I would say Google favored Hillary because Trump spent $85m on FB.
 
It is strange so much emphasis is being put on the Russians. This Canadian could have designed a Google or FB ad campaign to support my preference in the election and tried to sway American voters. Would not that count for outside interference in the American election?
 
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 5, 2018 - 11:29am
I agree Dave, undue emphasis is being put on the Russians, but it's the Democrats that are doing it, trying to impeach Trump. They're opening investigation after investigation, trying anything to get Trump out of the White House. 
The evidence is there, proven if by nothing more than the indictment of violators that will never see a court of law, but it stands. A Canadian designing ad campaigns for any American politician for money, as long as they are registered with the appropriate officials, would not be in violation. The deliberate attempts at disrupting the U.S. elections that the Russians did was another story entirely. 
There is a book called "guerrilla marketing" of your book that might have some things to try that you might not have tried, but I have one book that I would like to sell and am working on another that is targeted to a very specific market. There are markets out there. Thanks for the comments. 
Doug Plumb Added Mar 5, 2018 - 2:05pm
News is more balanced - if you want to look. The central control of news is best illustrated in this quote from Rockefeller:
“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost 40 years......It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.” 
 
It is possible, for now, to find news and commentators that do not provide a self conflicting and often silly world view to give a framework for explanations of current events.
If we regulate Facebook and Google out, then the regulations will open doors to more regulations. I wonder if a new Google could be created that is better than the existing one. I wonder how many cob webs and leaks live in older poorly written google code. Could this be possible under newer regulations?
My favorite new intellectuals, Michael Hoffman and E Michael Jones would never get published in a controlled environment.
I hope the net stays free, even though freedom means monoliths like Google and Facebook.
A free press isn't really any good, its just marginally better than an unfree press.
Bill H. Added Mar 5, 2018 - 3:47pm
 
As long as people are forced more into their "bubbles" by polarized news sources and social media/search engine algorithms, we will continue to become even more divided.
Sadly, this is exactly what is being implemented.
1.  Divide
2.  Conquer
3.  Prosper
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 5, 2018 - 5:38pm
Exactamundo Bill. Right on. Thanks for comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 5, 2018 - 5:41pm
Doug, I'm not convinced that regulation is a good idea, but, for real, with only two major suppliers of news, that can't be good. I'm not, as of yet, asking them to break up, but as The Wall Street Journal points out, U.S. antitrust laws, designed to promote fair competition, and prevent consolidation, actually make it harder for traditional news outlets to compete with Silicon Valley giants. That's a problem. Than ks for your comments.
James Travil Added Mar 5, 2018 - 6:42pm
Who knew that "hate speech" videos were responsible for getting rid of the odious Walmart and Verizon ads on YouTube! I guess a big thanks to hate speech for that!
 
I remember when you could be fairly certain that what you read or saw on the news was truthful and accurate. Now the corporate mainstream media outlets are little more than mouthpieces for the establishment. Google and Facebook don't care about "fake news" they do however openly censor news or views that are contrary to the establishment political line. Because of this fact I only get my news from a few quality independent journalists and services such as the aforementioned Zero Hedge.
Neil Lock Added Mar 6, 2018 - 4:53am
Jeff: Good article. Like you, I use Google but only because I have to, and I don't go within a million miles of Facebook.
 
What I see happening this side of the pond is that "local community papers" have in effect been taken over by government. We get "free" local magazines pushed through our postboxes, but all they have inside them is politically correct spin. Mine go straight in the bin.
 
As to assessing news, I've never been a news junkie, so maybe it's easier for me than for most. Over the years I've come to know who I trust, and it isn't any of the mainstream media. But I do find it useful occasionally to look outside the box. Even the far left (once you've subtracted out their prejudices) occasionally have something interesting to say.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 6, 2018 - 6:08am
James, I'm with you that Google  and Facebook don't have much of any concern whether news is fake or not, as long as they can make money. One of the problems? At an earlier time in history, someone entering the profession of journalism was expected to report the truth. The news departments of the major television networks lost money for decades. Now, if you can believe it, it is all about money. Thanks for your comments.
Dave Volek Added Mar 6, 2018 - 11:46am
Jeff
 
The Mueller campaign may indeed be politically motivated. But at the same time, if one is caught speeding, one cannot use the argument that other drivers were speeding and didn't get a ticket. If one breaks a law, one should not be too surprised if a police officer shows up.
 
Like Watergate, this Russian collusion thing is trivial in its effect on the election. But it sure gives political opponents lots of ammunition. There are just some candies that politicians should stay away from. If they can't figure this out, they deserve all the hassle those candies will bring to them. 
 
I'll look up your "guerilla marketing." I think I've heard this term before.
 
I've been promoting this TDG idea for 20 years. I have divided reactions to the TDG into these categories:
 
1) There is a political messiah out there that will fix things for us.
2) If only the citizens became more knowledgeable, we would get better governance.
3) We are going on a downward spiral, so there is no point in looking for alternatives in governance.
4) The system can't change: that is the way it has been and the way it will always be.
5) The benefits of western democracy outweigh whatever flaws it has. So let's keep it.
6) It is impossible to re-create the wisdom of the founding fathers of the American constitution. Their work is above reproach.
 
 
 
 
 
Doug Plumb Added Mar 6, 2018 - 2:20pm
I'm with (2),(5), and (6) although I think that expressions of common law will get better with time, so for (6) I can't say the work is above reproach but only that there is none better (except the Germanic/Kantian idea of law) If we adopted Kants Metaphysics of Morals as a framework we would be much better off. Freedom of association would be gone, along with secret societies - which Kant said would be the ruin of us all.
Bill H. Added Mar 6, 2018 - 10:29pm
 
Niel - Get away from using Google for your searches. Use StartPage or Duck Duck Go. Neither of these learn your search preferences, therefore they don't begin tailoring your search results for you and throwing ads at you everywhere you go.
In my opinion, both Google and Facebook (or any social media/search site that uses similar algorithms) are exactly what is responsible for what is negative about our country and probably much of the world lately.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 7, 2018 - 6:11am
Dave/Doug, I don't know if the Clintons are members of a secret society, but they sure have a lot of folks hanging out with them trying to get some scraps off the loaded Clinton table. I won't go as far as conspiracies in secret societies, but there are some patterns that sure do make some folks either very lucky or it was an inside job. By the way, in my state, you cannot belong to a secret society if you are under 18. But we still have gangs.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 7, 2018 - 6:15am
Thanks for the tip Bill! I think that as the "no information given out" browsers take hold, I am hoping that Google faces some competition and stops some of their monopolistic tendencies. But if that happens, then the founders might have to give up their private jumbo jet, good lord, let's hope not, and the $1,1100 Google stock price- which is skewing the stock market in a very unhealthy manner, finally comes back to a realistic numbers. Thanks for the comments and thanks for the surfing tips Bill.
George N Romey Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:24am
Jeff the CFR is one of the most secretive and dark groups out there. It’s a whose who of the 01%, including the Clintons.
Pardero Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:29am
Bill H. gave good advice on search engines. Although on an android, I use every alternative to Google programs.
mark henry smith Added Mar 8, 2018 - 3:05pm
The filthy rich are all members of a secret society. Wait until you actually meet one and see how they live. It's a different world. Go anywhere, do anything, with pools of money that can make or break anything they put their little minds to. Do you really think Venezuela's problems are self inflicted? Do you really think the reason we're not hearing about Italy's debt, or Greece's is because the problem has been solved?
 
News doesn't really matter, does it? As we learned from the power outages, without news life goes on, but we like to think our knowledge matters when it doesn't. News is entertainment that capitalizes on a person's sense of their own importance, like the Gates' Foundation motto that all lives matter equally. Bullshit. A foundation with a bullshit motto must be bullshit at it's core. Let's make a better toilet, that's the answer.
 
Here's what I wanted to say, Jeff. We can use any of these systems and as long as we understand how they operate, we can play them against themselves. Facebook wants me to buy their product, access to numbers. They will sell me access to thousands of people for only dollars and they will give me the first $30 worth free to show me what they can do for me. My refusal only makes them more determined to figure out my angle. They can't believe that there are people who don't have one. Our hope for the world is in those people, like you.          
George N Romey Added Mar 8, 2018 - 3:22pm
Well of course the MSM would rather entertain the imbeciles with tales of Trump tweets rather than talk about a real global threat like the meltdown of Italian banks. Which by the way would destroy our banks quicker than you can say bailout.
 
In the 70s they entertained the masses with “giggle tv.” Today it’s with the giggle heads at CNN.
mark henry smith Added Mar 9, 2018 - 12:04pm
George, our belief that our beliefs matter will destroy us and that's what the media sells. When enough people begin to believe that their beliefs matter more than their actions, we're well on the way to paving the path to destruction. 
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 11, 2018 - 3:02am
Excellent points gentlemen. It's good to see people thinking for themselves and seeing the reality and the consequences that some of the current events are going to bring. Thanks for the comments.