Road Signs: Less Than Meets The Eye?

“There may be less going on here than meets the eye.”

Media Digest’s quote of the week from The Economist may apply to social media as well as to the net generation’s “digital natives” the paper was referencing.

For example: While thousands of “friends” may be accumulated on Facebook, an on-going study at Oxford University puts the brain’s capacity for maintaining relationships at 150 persons. Reported by Chris Gourlay in Or, Twitter has unleashed 10 billion “tweets” in three years and at its current rate of more than 50 million per day will double that total by the end of the year, according to gigatweet, reported in Media Digest. Yet, the great bulk of those “tweets” come from about five percent of Twitter members. Or, AOL is creating an incestuous content factory that uses search engines to scour the web searching out hot topics and then farming out assignments to citizen journalists and professional editors to create more of the same. 

And AOL is not alone.

Daniel Blackman, writing for Media Post’s, Online Publishing Insider, says, “At this very moment, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of articles are being created on a scale never before seen in the media world. Algorithms generate specific topics, then keyword-stuffed articles are quickly written. It’s the shotgun marriage of Henry Ford and Johannes Gutenberg, consecrated by the Internet. Much of this content isn’t being generated in order to inform, inspire, or to entertain. Its raison d’être is simply to be found by the search bots and then served up to deliver ad clicks. The content is only a means to an end.” Yet, as Desi Tzoneva reports in Media Post, research this January by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism found that traditional media still generates the bulk of information that reaches the public:

  • New media platforms and services like Twitter mainly repeat information generated elsewhere;
  • While the news landscape has rapidly expanded, most of what the public learns is still overwhelmingly driven by traditional media;
  • Much of the ‘news’ people receive contains no original reporting; and
  • Most new information comes from traditional media, and these stories tend to set the narrative agenda for most other media outlets.