Monday, June 24, 2019

"The Decline of American Journalism Is an Antitrust Problem"

Well that and a J-school problem and a societal problem and a general education problem and a zeitgeist problem and....a whole bunch of things but one point of attack would be the effect of the platforms on revenue which, if molded in the journos favor might slow the decline enough that you won't have to hire folks characterized by Ben Rhodes as:
“....The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
—NYT via Foreign Policy, May, 6, 2016 "A stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president’s foreign policy guru
So yeah, work on the money and the rest of the stuff gets easier as the quality improves.

From the University of Chicago's ProMarket:

Weak antitrust enforcement set the stage for Facebook and Google to extract the fruits of publishers’ labor. We won’t be able to save journalism and solve our disinformation problem unless we weaken monopolies’ power.
As a former antitrust enforcer, I believe that the starving of journalism and the disinformation crisis are in good part monopoly problems. I’ve been writing about antitrust and tech platforms since the summer of 2016, when I noticed that the tech giants—Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple—were doing the same types of things Microsoft had been sued for nearly 20 years earlier. They were leveraging their market power to make fair competition impossible.

These tech giants are gatekeepers that also compete against companies that must get through their gates to reach users. News publishers must get through Facebook and Google’s gates due to the two platforms’ concentrated control over the flow of information. But Facebook and Google compete against news publishers for user attention, data and ad dollars. They are controlling the game and playing it too.

Publishers never had a fair shot, nor do they have bargaining power against the platforms. The platforms can cut them off with a simple tweak of an algorithm. Facebook and Google exploit their middlemen positions to divert ad revenue away from publishers and into their own pockets.

And the platforms can hyper-target users based on their 360-degree views of what their users read, think, and do, thanks to their ability to track users across millions of websites and even offline. Last year, Facebook and Google accounted for approximately 85 percent of the growth of the more than $150 billion North America and EU digital advertising market, according to Digital Content Next, a main trade association for publishers.

As for disinformation, Facebook and YouTube program their algorithms to prioritize engagement, which amplifies propaganda. Through surveillance, Facebook and Google learn what messages people are susceptible to, whether ads or propaganda. Then they rent out these manipulation machines to others for huge profits. The scale of the manipulation is massive—because of Facebook and Google’s dominance.

The platforms lack competitive pressure to fix the disinformation problem. The closest substitute for Facebook users is Instagram, which it owns. Users need to be able to vote with their feet and switch to alternatives....MUCH MORE
For one, just one, example of what the lack of money has done to the newspaper and TV news business here's July 2017's "Automation, Fact Checking and the Decline of the News Business (plus Tracy and Hepburn)":
....In 1957, daily papers and television stations in most major cities had dozens of research librarians working in shifts almost round the clock. Their work was essential for ensuring accuracy in the news. In 2012, Paul Friedman reported in the Columbia Journalism Review that CBS’s entire news research staff was down to three full-time employees. Friedman tied this figure to an overall cut in global coverage, a consequence of the networks’ new preference for trivial and sensational “news-lite” about affairs such as gas prices, weekend weather forecasts, and feature interviews with celebrities.
This shift was the result of a corporate branding decision that the networks undertook more or less simultaneously: as Friedman explains, the networks hoped to combat declining viewership with specialized newscasts tailored to each lead anchor’s personality. The resulting evening news broadcasts, while no longer nearly identical, became equally insipid. Observing a similar devolution away from ambitious investigative print journalism, CJR reported in 2013 that long-form news reporting, which for the sake of statistical comparison it defines as articles over 2,000 words, had declined 86 percent in the decade between 2003–2013....
And in 2015:
Sorry Fact Checkers, The Robots Are Coming For Your Jobs
I'm not sure how transformational this actually is as it appears many organizations have already dispensed with the services of fact checkers....