Thursday, October 3, 2013

Is Mass Media a Myth in the Information Economy?

Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, recently gave an interesting speech where he discussed the economics of the newspaper industry. Varian proposes that tablets give newspapers a way to reclaim some lost audience.

Jeff Jarvis, author of the book entitled 'What Would Google Do?' takes an opposing viewpoint. He contends that that mass media is a myth and that newspapers should personalize content to stay relevant.


  1. While both authors/speakers have valid points, I tend to agree with Jeff Jarvis' viewpoint that mass media is slowly disappearing. While people will likely still want to read about current events in a standardized form, the collection of articles will have to be tailored to the individual preferences of each reader. I think tablets do offer this possibility, but it requires major changes at the newspaper companies, especially in terms of internal processes and software.

  2. I agree with Patrick's view that both authors offer partial solutions and that additional customization will be essential to maintain readership and compete successfully with other news sources. However, if newspapers choose to pursue this route of personalizing media to individuals, we may see a greater degree of cyberbalkanization, where public opinion becomes more polarized by nature of individuals only being exposed to reinforcing news, opinion columns, etc. This would be directly opposed to most newspapers' core values of providing balanced and fair coverage. The challenge for news organizations will be to find the appropriate balance.

  3. (for Vitor Silva):

    While I tend to agree with Jeff Jarvis that mass media is something that tends to disappear (I’m a believer in targeted ads), I’d like to offer a counter example that denies his theory: TV advertising. This is still the biggest channel of the advertising market worldwide and it is still growing year after year. And the one with the biggest reach – the definition of mass media. Why then the TV advertising didn’t suffer the same effects of mass media? One theory that I have is that the TV offerings became so niche – cable TV channels and specific TV shows – that ad targeting is possible in much deeper ways than just the finance section of the newspaper. Even though, the cost of advertising in Breaking Bad or Big Bang Theory are sky high, and they have a range of viewers that are heterogeneous, reaching 5 to 10 millions viewers per episode. Why TV ads are still in the top of the game? Does anyone have some ideas?