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DMS: Reporting Digital War A Private Sphere Democracy in a Digital Age The Music Industry in the Cloud Personal Connections in the Digital Age DMS: Hacking DMS: Digtal Media Ethics DMS: Blogging DMS: Media Work DMS: Search Engine Society DMS: Mobile Communication DMS: The Information Society

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The End of Newspapers

Posted 2904 days ago by: Super Admin / Tags: work, news, journalism, print, media / 6 Comments

European and North American newspapers have been in decline for decades. Slowly but surely, all indicators of a more or less healthy product - circulation, audience penetration, advertising effectiveness, credibility and trust - have been eroding to the point where, today, they are in freefall. None of this is surprising given the historical trend, but it still features in feverish debates online and offline as to what the future of democracy is without newspapers.

The link between newspapers and democracy is tenuous, and also rather uninspiring as a basis for debate - as one can find similar discussions in the professional and academic literature in the 1920s (economic depression, general distrust of media as vehicles for wartime propaganda, rise of radio as a mass medium), the 1980s (TV news trumps print news, increased media concentration, decline of political and other forms of civic participation), and the early 1990s.

What seems to be lacking from the current debate - about the end of an era for local newspapers in the UK, or the demise of one or more national newspapers in The Netherlands, and the shutting down of at least 10 or more prestigious newspapers in the US - is a critical awareness of the workforce restructuring of journalism that runs parallel to this process. This process shifts the economy from one based on the production of commodities (such as news) at specific places (as in the office buildings of news organizations) using the skills of specific employees. It is perhaps useful to interpret the demise of newspapers as an important step towards the liquefaction of all these categories.

Economists for years have been predicting or advocating the emergence of a global weightless economy, where ideas are the primary form of capital (rather than, say, machines). Such a weightless economy centered on information and communications technology (ICT), the Internet, and (copyright-protected, trademarked) intellectual assets, in turn produced by immaterial labor. Immaterial labor produces the informational and cultural content of a commodity, which content is valued on the basis of impermanent, unstable, and generally unpredictable categories: creative norms, user preferences, consumer taste, seasonal fashions, and so on.

I would argue that another element defining the "weight" of a weightless economy - next to factories and machines - are people, as in: employees. People that are owned - and taken responsibility for through contracts and other formal social arrangements - by companies. The majority of journalists in countries all over the world has always been employed by newspapers. The newsroom sizes of newspapers can run into the hundreds of reporters and editors, whereas broadcast and online teams tend to be just a fraction of this.

Another difference has been that newspaper staffers generally have had the most stable kind of employment arrangements, often working in fulltime, open-ended contractual capacity. This compared to their colleagues in online, magazine, and broadcast news, which operations are more often than not staffed with contingent workers (parttime, temporary, freelance) in "atypical" or otherwise casualized labor conditions - often even working without a contract. Interestingly, in these areas of the profession the gender balance tends to be almost neutral, whereas in newspapers men dominate the workforce in countries such as The Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Australia, and the US - often by a margin of up to 80%.

At the heart of the demise of newspapers and the restructuring of a global weightless economy is the permanent uprooting and letting go of the majority of employed, contractual workforce in the news industry, and the overall casualization of labor.

Journalism is losing weight. Its weight is its workforce, and with that the remaining labor protections that still governed the profession. That is the real tragedy of the end of newspapers.


Incentives, Reality TV, and Employment in the Media

Posted 2930 days ago by: Super Admin / Tags: work, media, production / 0 Comments

In a report (link to PDF) by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) on the industry outlook for motion pictures and television production regarding 2009-2010, runaway production and the shift towards (non-scripted, therefore generally non-union and low-cost) reality TV programming are mentioned as the key trends affecting the creative economy of Southern California.

In a Reuters story on the report, the LAEDC is quoted as: "[t]he trends that you see are not favorable [...] TheAcademy Awards are coming up, with all their glitz and glamour, but youhave to look behind the curtain, where all the gears and levers are turning."

Indeed. The business of what the US industry would call runaway production", but what fits the wholesale shift of media work into global production networks and a new international division of cultural labor has produced its own cottage industry, bringing together "Attorneys, VentureCapital, Private Equity, Hedge Funds, Family Offices, Tax ShelterInvestors, A-list Filmmakers, Section 181 Investors, Motion PictureGroups At Agencies, New Markets Tax Credit Buyers" among others (source: Noci Pictures Entertainment 2008 press release).

All of this reinforces a crucial mantra in contemporary media work: all production is global, but all labor is local.


Crisis hits media workers everywhere

Posted 2937 days ago by: Mark Deuze / Tags: media work, layoffs, crisis / 2 Comments

Just as a reminder of how globally connected the creative industries are - their practices embedded in global production networks - some current information (this time all from the Media Guardian news service) on how the various industries (magazines, newspapers, TV production) in for example the UK are hit hard by the economic crisis and the ongoing efforts of regional or transnational corporations to cut costs by eliminating labor.


Media Production without Content

Posted 2938 days ago by: Mark Deuze / Tags: media work, content, production / 0 Comments

Work in the media has always been associated with the production of content - making news, advertisements, movies, music, and so on.

One of the reasons why the shift to an all-digital, always-on media landscape poses such disruptive challenges to creative industries business models as well as media workers' sense of their professional identity, is that it is quite possible that content in a digital age is anything but king.

Time magazine (of 11 February 2009) for example reports how "content, once king, becomes a pauper" as it gets devalued at a rapid pace without anything else seemingly replacing it - other than what Tiziana Terranova labels as the free labor of users producing culture (by generating content).

This is not a new insight. Andrew Odlyzko wrote (in a 2001 issue of the excellent First Monday online journal) about "the primacy of connectvity over content", boldly declaring that content is, indeed, not King. This analysis has been echoed by various industry observers, suggesting that contact (Douglas Rushkoff) and communication (Dale Peskin) are king.

It is clear that "production" in a media work context today equals a delicate balancing act between creating compelling content and providing meaningful connectivity. This tightrope-walking (ostensibly without a safety net) must be set against finding ways to be creatively autonomous as well as commercially viable. This Content - Connectivity | Creativity - Commerce or "4C" model lies at the heart of understanding contemporary media work.

None of this is necessarily new - but all of this puts new pressures on how the people across the digital media industries (can) do their work, and what that work in fact means to them. For instance: I have yet to meet a first-year journalism student who claims she chose this career path out of a heartfelt desire to help people tell their own stories...


New Business Models for TV/Film

Posted 2939 days ago by: Mark Deuze / Tags: Hollywood, Joss Whedon, TV/Film, media work / 3 Comments

Fascinating interview published through the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog)offering suggestions of new business models in the TV/film industry. Whedon advocates models giving more agency to creatives, less power to what he describes as the "homogenized, globalized, monopolized entertainment system."



Welcome to the homepage of the Digital Media and Society series!

This site has been created to support and supplement this series of cutting edge books from Polity on new technologies. It also aims to provide a new space online where those with an interest in the relationship between these new technologies and society can share views, resources and queries. We hope not only that you will find the information here helpful and stimulating, but that you will bookmark this site and return to it frequently, as both a contributor to the site and a consumer of it.

There will be a number of blogs posted here soon, so please check back regularly.

The Polity Team