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In today’s highly-connected and instantaneous world, we have access to a massive amount of information at our fingertips.
Historically, however, this hasn’t always been the case.
Time travel back just 20 years ago to 2002, and you’d notice the vast majority of people were still waiting on the daily paper or the evening news to help fill the information void.
In fact, for most of 2002, Google was trailing in search engine market share behind Yahoo! and MSN. Meanwhile, early social media incarnations (MySpace, Friendster, etc.) were just starting to come online, and all of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the iPhone did not yet exist.
The Waves of Media So Far
Every so often, the dominant form of communication is upended by new technological developments and changing societal preferences.
These transitions seem to be happening faster over time, aligning with the accelerated progress of technology.
- Proto-Media (50,000+ years)
Humans could only spread their message through human activity. Speech, oral tradition, and manually written text were most common mediums to pass on a message.
- Analog and Early Digital Media (1430-2004)
The invention of the printing press, and later the radio, television, and computer unlock powerful forms of one-way and cheap communication to the masses.
- Connected Media (2004-current)
The birth of Web 2.0 and social media enables participation and content creation for everyone. One tweet, blog post, (Read more...)
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33 Problems With Media in One Chart
One of the hallmarks of democratic society is a healthy, free-flowing media ecosystem.
In times past, that media ecosystem would include various mass media outlets, from newspapers to cable TV networks. Today, the internet and social media platforms have greatly expanded the scope and reach of communication within society.
Of course, journalism plays a key role within that ecosystem. High quality journalism and the unprecedented transparency of social media keeps power structures in check—and sometimes, these forces can drive genuine societal change. Reporters bring us news from the front lines of conflict, and uncover hard truths through investigative journalism.
That said, these positive impacts are sometimes overshadowed by harmful practices and negative externalities occurring in the media ecosystem.
The graphic above is an attempt to catalog problems within the media ecosystem as a basis for discussion. Many of the problems are easy to understand once they’re identified. However, in some cases, there is an interplay between these issues that is worth digging into. Below are a few of those instances.
Editor’s note: For a full list of sources, please go to the end of this article. If we missed a problem, let us know!
Explicit Bias vs. Implicit Bias
Broadly speaking, bias in media breaks down into two types: (Read more...)
About five years ago, a revenue line buried in the back of Amazon's accounts started to get quite big. ‘Other revenue’ was over $4bn by the end of 2017, and if you looked at the notes to the notes, you discovered that this was ‘predominately advertising’. By 2019 this had grown to $14bn, and I wrote about it here, pointing out that ‘Amazon’ was no longer just e-commerce and AWS, and had become a bundle of lots of different businesses, many of which were probably just as profitable as AWS. However, we still didn’t know how what ‘predominantly’ meant. At the end of 2021 this changed: Amazon started splitting out the ad revenue directly, telling us that this is now a $31 billion business.
$31bn is roughly the same size as Google Display, YouTube, or the entire global newspaper industry’s ad business.
This is only about 6.5% of Amazon’s net revenue, but it has much higher margins. Google’s ad business has close to 60% operating margins excluding TAC; Amazon’s ads should be higher margin, given that it’s mostly leveraging the core businesses’s existing cost base (in other words - this is ‘found money’), but even assuming the same 60%, that would be $18bn of operating income in 2021, almost exactly the same as the $18.5bn that Amazon reports for AWS. Given AWS’s capex requirements, this makes it extremely likely that the ad business produces more cashflow.
The margin differential between e-commerce and advertising has become a much bigger story (Read more...)
Sometimes the centre of gravity in tech is very clear - everything is about PCs, or the web, or smartphones. But at other times, there are lots of things going on and none of them are The Thing, and all of them are full of questions. Of course, for some crypto people crypto is the only question and the only answer, but as we enter 2022 there are lots of areas where trillion dollar questions are wide open. These are the questions I wonder about at the moment - there are others.
Crypto is so big and potentially important, and yet so vague and so early, that we can’t even agree what to call it, and at times the noise of both irrational, religious hype and straw-man attacks can seem overwhelming. There is a set of ideas that could in principle be as central to tech as machine learning or open source, but after that, everything is a question.
The tech itself is in a period of massively increasing sophistication and complexity, as everyone builds on an open canvas and builds capability on a simple idea - early PCs or indeed the early consumer internet looked like this. But the more layers, abstractions, building blocks and primitives are created, the harder it is to know which will resolve into things normal people can use, and, paradoxically, the more likely gatekeepers become. We’re imagining the metaverse while arguing about how TCP-IP should work and whether this new ‘WWW’ thing is (Read more...)