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Factors affecting the power of infocapitalists

With the advent of interactive tools supported by the Internet, providing for the production, dissemination, copy and reuse of digital content, the online population is publishing networked micro-media that challenge established mass media organizations. Collaborative creation and dissemination of information using peer-to-peer (P2P) networks make it possible for the public to cross-check information and exploit new sources whose reliability can be both challenged and verified. The phenomenon of online publishing in the form of blogs, interactive web sites, online communities and P2P communication systems is flooding the Internet with often original news and information of varying quality, which make it possible to peer-review news and knowledge items provided online. According to Ignacio Ramonet, “this infatuation shows that many readers prefer openly stated subjectivity and partiality of bloggers to the fake objectivity and impartiality of a part of the press” .

Dan Gillmor (his website), whose experience as a blogger is undeniable, states in We the Media that the Internet can save journalism whose credibility is being challenged today . He predicts that journalists, sources and readers will gather online to transform journalism in a sort of permanent conversation supported by technology, in lieu of this sort of top-down monologue that is the norm today.


In France, Cyril Fievet, cofounder and editor of pointblog.com, journalist for InternetActu.net, remains optimistic about the reliability of blogs: “there are risks: news can be manipulated or distorted. The sheer volume of information published makes it difficult to verify the origin of a piece of news. However, I am quite confident. A sort of ecosystem is being created that makes it possible to validate information thanks to popularity tools, hyperlinking and trackbacking. […] It’s a major step: journalists have now lost their monopoly on information. They are no longer the only ones to report what is going on in the world. We now have the forerunners of citizen-journalists and they’re expected to grow in number .”

The adoption of broadband Internet connectivity enables a wide usage of multimedia in the interactions between people, thus blurring even more the distinctions between types of media and intensifying competitive pressure. Modern radios have web pages that are dynamically changed every day to display relevant news; they also provide a direct feed of their programs, a podcasting service and sometimes even a video feed direct live from their studios. Quite clearly the distinction between a newspaper, a radio and a TV channel are becoming thinner by the day. Today broadband connectivity makes it possible for users to receive high-quality video feeds on their personal computers and to subscribe to a large number of channels or to specific shows, which further fragments the media landscape. A consumer of information or entertainment content will subscribe to individual shows that they will want to see when it suits them irrespective of the official date and time of broadcast. Today in France over 25% of the population has a broadband connection to the Internet. At a worldwide level, 80% of newspapers in existence have a web site that can be accessed by their readers even when they live in territories around the globe where physical distribution of the paper is not available.


Cell phones are also evolving rapidly to become personal communications modules that are reshaping the landscape of interactive communication by making it possible to have real-time interactions: several services now exist making it possible for subscribers to receive news flashes, stock exchange quotes, short news via SMS and even small video feeds. In India, Times Internet, a subsidiary of the Times of India, is sending monthly over 30 million SMS with the news. In Japan and South Korea, a growing number of people are using their mobile phones to access the news in the form of radio and television feeds.

However all applications involving low bandwidth devices can be seen as extensions of traditional mass media that keep the public in a top-down communication model that requires limited cognition and activity on their part. As a result, in most parts of the news industry, with the notable exception of the Internet, we are seeing a shrinking audience and intensified competition. Statistical data testify to the fact that a large part of the population that can access the Internet is actually spending more time in front of personal computers reading, listening to or watching the news, than they spend watching TV or reading newspapers!



The emergence of the media of the masses


Adding to the trends that results from changing behaviors of consumers, a growing market penetration of digital content processing tools is giving rise to the media of the masses now facing traditional mass media . Pronetarians who are interested in supporting democracy must come together as a group to reform the media system, which perceives them as threats mainly because its fabric was woven by the infocapitalists. Balancing the massive influence and control of established mass media seems like a challenge and intense battles lie ahead. The public’s, and hence the pronetarians’, awareness that there are alternatives to the current monopoly of infocapitalists is a key factor in this evolution to come. The public must become aware that deliberate action to evolve towards a more open media system. The role of blogs, grassroots journalism and of collaborative creation online is crucial in this process.

To paraphrase the famous call of Karl Liebknecht, it seems that today there is a clear call for action: Pronetarians of all countries unite!


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