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A lot has changed in the world of mass media since the introduction of the internet technology. In every step of the internet evolution comes a corresponding change in mass media owing to the fact that most people consider the internet to be the best source of information as the prerogative goes ‘if it is not in the internet it does not exist’.
This means that many people rely on the internet for information and since information provision is the highest mandate of mass media, they have to be at the same level with their audiences.
Convergence in relation to mass media is defined by Benkler (2006, p. 33) as “the interrelationship that has occurred in the development of the internet as a result of association between communication networks, ICT facilities and the media”. This is believed to have played a major role in the recent developments in the media industry as far as communication and broadcasting are concerned.
The concept of convergence is better understood when it is dissected into four subsections. The first is in the view of technology which in the words of Benkler (2006, p. 49) involves “the combination of computing, communications and content around networked digital media platforms”.
Second is the industrial view of convergence which involves the growth and development of digital media space that has allowed online companies to flourish, some of which include Microsoft, Google among others. The third view is social based which involves the evolution of the social network characterized by the coming up of social media of the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Finally is the textual view of convergence which involves the reproduction of media into what is commonly referred to as transmedia. This according to Benkler (2006, p.50) is a platform where “stories and media content such as sounds, images, written text and so on are dispersed across multiple media platforms”.
From this it is clear that the internet evolution has played an explicit role in the development of convergence media in a number of ways as explained in the paragraphs that follow.
Increase in the speed of internet
Research findings conducted by Lister (2006, p.125) and documented in his book The Wealth of Networks: How social production transforms markets and freedoms, indicate that “as of December 2010, there were 10.45 million active internet subscribers in Australia, of which 8.15 million were household subscribers and 2.3 million were business and government subscribers”.
This figure is considered to be a 17% growth from the previous years’ figure of 8.95 million. Besides, it was discovered that more than 3 million people above the age of 14 used their mobile handsets to access the internet in December 2010, and this is considered to be a rise compared to the previous years’ 1.9 million.
From this we can deduce that households which were the highest targets for the mass media have now found another source of information and entertainment which is the internet.
These statistics also indicate that in the recent past, the number of internet users has increased partly due to the universal availability, convenience and high speeds. The availability of the internet through mobile devices, specifically phones, has played a major role in the development of convergent media.
Most people can now access the internet in the comfort of their homes unlike earlier on when internet services were only available in cyber cafes. The internet speeds have also increased incredibly and the cost reduced to make it even more convenient for households.
People are able to get information real time while travelling or when they are in the comfort of their homes. As a result, it has dawned on the media personnel that the best way to transfer information to the public is through the internet, mostly on social networks.
This explains why platforms such as twitter broadcast breaking news and it reaches the world over in a matter of seconds after the occurrence. Before it would take a number of hours before the journalists themselves get the information so that they can relay to the public within their region.
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For news and information to reach people across boundaries, it would take days and at times even fail to reach owing to logistical complications. From this, it is clear that the internet has played a major role in media convergence and in the alteration of the core tendencies in the mass media business.
Transformation of media business to digital form
The incredible increase in internet usage among the masses has seen to it that the most valuable and believed information is what is obtained from the internet. Most people seek information concerning various subjects on the internet and they take what they get as the gospel truth.
Examples of the most commonly sought information includes slimming tips, body building and exercising tips, ideas on nutrition, medical advice and information on various diseases and health conditions and so on.
Earlier on, this information was being sought from magazines and those people offering these services would buy into the advertising space. This however changed with the evolution of the internet; hence indicating that print media is almost becoming a forgotten thing.
Digitalization of the media has provided a more convenient platform for obtaining information, since it is just a matter a click and one gets all the information they need. Video platforms such as YouTube ensure that video adverts and other information presented in visual form can be accessed as well.
It is even possible to stream television programs from the internet, hence rendering TV’s obsolete as well. The internet in this case is considered more convenient owing to portability and reliability.
This is what fits into the lifestyles of most people nowadays: characterized by more things to do and less time to do them. This means that most people are unable to sit down and catch up on the evening news, hence preferring the best alternative, the internet, which they can access while on the move.
In the recent years, the wave of globalization has been experienced in the world over and this credit is owed to the internet. It is now possible to catch up on the happenings in other continents across the oceans with just a click. Globalization has also encouraged the businesses to be conducted globally, from a focal point.
While carrying out businesses in different parts of the world, it is no longer necessary to make the frequent travels to these regions, thanks to the internet. Conferences are conducted across continents through teleconferencing facilities, orders are made through the electronic mails services and payments made through e-payment platforms such as PayPal.
The entertainment industry, particularly, has benefitted from the whole concept of globalization since they are now able to reach the entire world in a matter of seconds. This industry is considered as the backbone of mass media since people are in constant search for relaxation and fun.
Recently, mobile devices which allow users to watch movies online and stream music from various radio stations across the continent have been developed. As a result of this, competition in the media industry is no longer local but international.
This has led to the increasing rate of international broadcasts as opposed to the local broadcasts done before. In order for the media houses to obtain this information that they need from other regions, they need the internet so that they can be in correspondence with their agents around the globe.
This explains the rise and growth of international media houses such as CNN and BBC whose success is greatly owed to the internet innovations. These media houses rely on satellite technology to send and receive information real time such that it can be viewed in many other parts of the world just like it is being viewed at home.
In other words, a person watching CNN news from the United States is watching the same thing with someone else in another continent; say Africa, all owed to the internet technology.
The other way in which the internet has contributed to the development of media convergence is by increasing the rate of innovation. With the introduction of the internet, it is now possible to develop products and test them in a matter of days. Software developers are always coming up with programs to be used in different industries to ease the process of production.
The media industry is no exception in this. Earlier on, obtaining information especially in visual form required a travel to where the information is being obtained from.
This has however changed since pictures and videos are being posted on the internet in a matter of seconds. These contents are used to make news even on print media, since all there is to do is to obtain permission from the owner and publish the information from the internet.
The media is also widely known for using the social network as a broadcasting tool. This is one innovation that has proved successful as far as communication is concerned. Events all over the world are made known to the entire world in seconds.
Intellectual property is becoming more and more famous with most countries being forced to adapt to the rules governing this kinds of property.
In the bid to explain the extent to which the internet has contributed to media convergence as far as innovations are concerned, Benkler (2006 p. 137) asserted that “there is an interrelationship between developments which include the growing share of intangible capital, growing speed and intensity of innovation and the increasing diversity of sources of innovation, the ICT revolution and the rise of knowledge based communities and global knowledge networks”.
All these have contributed to the media evolution over the years and still remain to be the highest ranked drivers to innovation in the media industry.
Age and privacy based content restrictions
In the earlier years, it was possible for the media people to conceal some information for the sake of underage audiences as well as information that was considered discrete for privacy purposes. This was mostly done by airing adult programs late at night or giving a disclaimer before the program begins and leaving it upon the parents to enforce the rules.
This however changed with the internet era since everything on the TV can also be viewed through the internet and even worse, teenagers no longer wait for their parents to go to bed before they sneak into the living room to watch pornographic videos.
They have this at their disposal wherever they are with their mobile phone devices, not only for viewing but also sending to other people. This means that the media efforts of maintaining morality in the society have been rendered useless.
In the history of the media, there has existed a tighter regulation regarding the widely used media such as television, cinema and video as compared to print media. This is owing to the fact that the latter is more discrete and concise in the information presented therein.
As a result, changes related to convergence have affected the former to great extents. In fact a report presented by Lister (2003, p. 78) in his book New Media: A critical introduction book observed that “the public own the airwaves; and since frequencies are scarce, and the broadcast media are influential, to grant a broadcast license is to bestow a privilege.
This privilege carries with it an obligation to provide the public with programs which meet the standards it expects”. Since a majority of the viewers are young people in their teens and early twenties, the same generation greatly influenced by the internet technology, the media houses have to be at par with the information available on the internet.
The internet in this case might work for them or against them. It works for them in the sense that they are able to get updated information from all over the world promptly. It can however work against them in the event where their potential audience obtains all the information they need from the internet and this can happen if the media proves to be an unreliable source of information.
From this discussion, it is clear that the major changes experienced in the mass media industry have been as a result of the internet evolution. The internet has influenced the media in both negative and positive ways and despite the damage brought about by this; it has proved difficult to control.
The internet is open to the public and most attempts to privatize information on the internet normally prove futile due to the existence of hackers. It is also not possible to have a viewers’ discretion policy since it is mostly controlled by a series of systems unlike human control.
The only place where this can be possible is in the cyber cafes which are also becoming irrelevant with the advent of mobile devices. Most homes today are connected to the internet and it has also been proved that people spend more time on the internet than watching their favorite programs on TV.
This has therefore forced the media personalities to up their strategies and use the internet for their good before it down plays the industry completely.
Benkler, Y 2006, The wealth of networks: how social production transforms markets and freedom, Yale University Press, New Haven.
Lister, M 2003, New media: a critical introduction. Routledge, London.