Nick Carr's Wishful Thinking: Internet Consolidating Just Like Old Media

from the the-big-three dept

Although the internet has had a democratizing effect on media, few people are romantic (or naive) enough to think this means that everyone can now be heard equally. And, as people are realizing, the traffic share of the internet’s top few destinations has been expanding. In 2001, the top 10 internet destinations commanded 31% of all traffic, a number which has risen to 40%. The conclusion that Nick Carr makes is that the internet has failed to live up to its promise as an “open, democratic medium” as the top sites come to resemble the major media networks of the past. But even if you accept the data at face value (and there may be some reason to doubt this due to things like RSS feeds) Carr’s conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow. For one thing, the internet’s top 10 destinations today aren’t the same ones as they were in 2001. So not only is the top of the heap much more fluid than in broadcast media, but it’s a mistake to even talk about the “top 10” as an entity that ebbs and flows. Imagine if he’d written this article in 2001; he’d be talking about the unassailable dominance of Yahoo, while sites like MySpace and Facebook (who he now complains are dominating) were still years away from existing. As a corollary to this, the underlying reason for the consolidation of internet traffic is totally different than the reason there were only 3 major TV networks for so long. While internet users may swarm around certain hot sites, it’s still due to their choice, not due to constraints. Finally, even within the popular sites, content is delivered from a wide variety of sources. Google dominates the search space, but users don’t go there to get information that Google creates. When people go to MySpace, they’re not there to be fed content from MySpace, but to communicate with their friends. So while the underlying traffic analysis is interesting — and it will be worth following this trend to see whether it continues or not — it doesn’t follow that the internet now simply resembles other media forms.

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Comments on “Nick Carr's Wishful Thinking: Internet Consolidating Just Like Old Media”

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phil says:

I’d argue that some folks might be scared to click around with all the lost constitutional rights lately and add to that the domestic snooping on citizens, the control by a corrupt administration of the executive, the judicial, the nullification of the senate, and all the other little branches, appointments, and offices that now effect nearly every branch of government in the united states. Why shortly before you written this article myspace, youtube, and photobucket are now banned from DOD networks. And on the search engine front, is google the only KNOWN search engine out there? Apparently some people haven’t been to to learn how to search. What is worse is the cyber-information-warfare by government, the telcos, lobbyists, cable co’s, the ISP’s. What folks need to learn now is Tor, proxies, encryption, and code.

-gary says:

Let’s not forget that the barriers to getting on the internet technically (hardware wise and proficiency wise) and conveniently has dropped considerably over the last 5 years.

New users to the internet don’t flock to Techdirt or very many smaller sites out there. They jump on the ones that they’ve heard about on the news, are linked to by places like their local news station who blasts their own site at you every 5 minutes during their nightly broadcast, or they follow their equally newbie friends. The point being that the balance of power hasn’t shifted so much as that new users are congregating on new user attention traps.

It suits me just fine. While those users may be a good source of fresh new clicks for their banner ads, their overall contribution to the internet is quite low on average. Let Fox and Google deal with them.

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