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By Jonathan Roy February 17, 2015

Transforming Media: A new Age

Communication is an essential component of human society. Since its commercialization nearly two decades ago, the Internet has completely changed the way in which members of society interact with one another. Its evolution has led to an array of new business opportunities online that many are still trying to learn as they transition from traditional media to new. Internet media is just more worthy of our time to invest in than traditional media is.

The following paper will use three social science disciplines to answer the question of if Internet and new media are more worthy of our time than traditional media. Through an historical lens, the evolution of online media will be examined. Through the use of business research, a description of how Internet media changes the game of business practice will be offered. Sociology will be the final viewpoint through which the examination of how people use the Internet brings people together in newer and better ways as opposed to traditional media. Finally, more examples will be detailed through personal research of the author. After spending years in and around Internet media, both experiencing it critically and creating it, my personal experience and research will bring a new perspective into the fold. Aside from the personal research, the origin of the arguments presented are all from authors who study in their respective fields and have contributed research on the realm of Internet media.

To begin, it is important to understand the origins of Internet media. For the purposes of this paper, the largest example of an Internet media site will be YouTube. The first YouTube video to be uploaded is titled “Me at the zoo”. It’s still on the site if you are so inclined to go watch it. The video depicts one of the founders of YouTube at the zoo just talking to the camera about what how cool Elephants are. The video was uploaded on April 23rd 2003. That first upload marks the beginning of what would eventually become one of the largest sites in the world today. At the time of writing this, YouTube currently holds the third rank as the most viewed website online, behind Facebook at 2nd and Google in 1st.

YouTube was created at a time where the Government was beginning to relax their regulations on online spaces. John Palfrey in 2010 wrote an interesting article depicting the 4 stages of Internet regulation since its inception. (1) Open Internet (1960-2000), (2) access denied (2000-2005), (3) access controlled (2005-2010) and (4) access contested (2010- ).

 Each of the phases was a result of the government’s response to the evolution of the Internet. In phase 1, the Internet, being a relatively new thing struck people with a sense of wonder and possibility. No one had ever used something that can essentially connect the world through a computer screen before. Thus, the label of “open Internet” symbolizes its new nature where the government and consumers alike were still getting used to it. Phase 2 came as a result of the government thinking that the future of this new technology would be more secure in the hands of the government. Thus, more strict regulations enforced the way information was shared via cyberspace. The response to the access denied phase was uproar from the masses, according to Palfrey. This uproar caused regulators to relax their regulations on cyber space, allowing for a more free use type of environment to thrive. Over time, due to the expansive and uncontrollable nature of the Internet, we reach the phase of access contested. Governments are once again seeking ways to regulate the Internet so as to allow their corporate interests use it as a machine for their own corporate use. The stifling of public information is also a motivating factor because the speedy nature in which millions of people can access information scares governments into wanting to regulate it to protect their own private interests. The current phase of Internet is depicted as a battle between regulators and the masses as both sides hold very different stances on how the Internet should grow, whether controlled or freely.

YouTube has now turned into a space where anyone across the world (provided your country hasn’t banned it, as China has) can freely share ideas and their life stories. Vloggers are the predominant creator base on YouTube. Vloggers attract millions of people to watch their lives. Daily vlogger Alfie Deyes, who just released his own book, in part because of his large following, currently has a subscriber base of over 5 million people across his three channels. Alfie is a daily vlogger, meaning every day he pulls out his camera and films snippets of his day-to-day activities. His girlfriend, whom he met through YouTube, is also a vlogger who also has more than 5 million subscribers according to her YouTube channel page. Here are two individuals, who actively promote good causes like Movember and mental health issues who use their platform to have fun with a massive audience and spread information at the same time.

Katie Day Good wrote an article after researching how people are essentially using online spaces as a way to share and record memories. Her piece gives weight to the argument that the Internet is a place for individuality to thrive. Her concluding remarks allude to the need for people to express themselves (Good, 15). The introduction of so many different social and Internet media sites allows us to communicate and personalize ourselves on a scale not seen before. Scrapbooks used to be a personal collection of our memories that you could only show to your friends if you are with them in person. With the Internet you can share your personality to even more people.

Vloggers like Alfie and his girlfriend Zoe are among the largest on YouTube. You can’t count the number of people who have YouTube channels based entirely on filming their lives and sharing them with people. Whether you’re trying to promote certain charity organizations, or just trying to brighten up someone’s day with a cheerful and fun video, YouTube allows for the spread of these types of content with no problem while allowing its largest creators a chance to make it their living as well.

It is very rare to find huge fads in today’s society that do not have economic weight behind them. If something begins to be popularized by the masses, corporate entities begin to take interest in hopes of profiting. The boom of Internet use and easy connectivity offers no exception to corporate eyeballing.

YouTube could be considered the ultimate PR machine. You can post as many videos you want for free to easily share with your clientele or audience. PR technologies such as video news conferences and blogs are some of the new ways producers can publically expose their products to populations in a much quicker manner compared to conventional methods such as newspaper ads and even television advertisements. Kaul Vineet is a marketing researcher who stated “the public relations industry has not yet grasped its full potential in a professional domain” (Vineet, 51). This quote is a reference to the Internet. Online spaces, for the longest time have been used mainly as recreational spaces, where people can connect outside of work. Now with the advent of new PR technologies, the professional aspects of the Internet are still evolving and it is very possible we will see a shift in public relations and marketing strategies online in the coming years.

A prime example of old media vs new media is a recent event that involved Russell Brand. The famous comedian now has a YouTube channel called The Trews, which he brands as the only source for true news as it is not influenced by a corporate agenda as many traditional media outlets are. The channel has nearly 800k subscribers. Russell posts on a regular basis in a vlog type format, meaning he speaks directly into a handheld camera, either from his house or on the road. He regularly has activists on his channel to discuss our government’s shortcomings in spheres such as climate change and economic prosperity. One of his most recent videos is him reacting to a newspaper publication, The Sun, which is a popular newspaper in England, which called him a hypocrite because he was seen actively marching and supporting the New era estate, an organization that strives to bring lower rents to London so housing can be more affordable to the masses. In his video titled “New Era Reporter Row: What's The Agenda? Russell Brand The Trews (E202)” he said that a day after he was interviewed by a Sun reporter as too why he was marching with these activists the paper made its report. Brand was trying to direct the conversation to the march to help promote it, but when the reported asked him “and how much do you pay in rent?” he made Brand a little upset. He began a small rant before one of the leaders of the New Era Estate stepped in to defend Russell, saying that he may be living a privileged life, but that he cares about their plight and has decided to come down from his loft apartment to support them, unlike other prominent media figures.

The following day The Sun’s edition cover story was a picture of Russell Brand talking to the reporter with the headline “Hypocrite” because Brand’s landlord apparently commits legal tax dodging, an act Brand actively lobbies against. The purpose of outlining this situation is to depict the differences between old and new media. The Sun, which is owned in part by Rupert Murdoch, commits tax dodging as well, a piece of information that Russell added to his video on the situation. The Sun published its piece on Brand to turn the focus of the people to Russell and his apparent hypocrisy to distract people from the message that Russell was trying to promote in the first place, that economic inequality is rampant in Britain. Corporate media entities are pushed by their directors and owners to mislead people, online Media personalities, such as Russell Brand, are attempting to bring these issues to the forefront of our attention so that they cannot be hidden by corporate agendas.

The beauty of the Internet is that it is a place where people can share almost anything they want to as many people as they want. Social media websites are a testament to that statement as their entire business model relies on people using their platforms to share their lives. Many communities have developed online in a way they couldn’t offline. If you visit the social media site Tumblr.com, most people will not understand half of the discussions or methods of communication that are predominant on the platform. Websites like Tumblr require that you invest time into them, so that you can begin to familiarize yourself with the way people interact.

Depending on what platforms or communities you join, you will have different experiences integrating into them. Mellissa Redman and Diane Zeeuw have written an article outlining some of the obstacles a new person, or “noob” would face entering a new online community for the first time. One case presented was that of the author‘s friend, who joined a Facebook group for urban photographers and noted how hostile they became when she apparently broke a very small rule. This girl did not have any prior knowledge about the social conventions of the group yet after her blunder she was never really accepted into the group (Redman, 2). Anonymity and social conventions on the Internet make it very easy for people to lash out at you. If you are a noob in a community, there is a very high chance you will be picked on.

It is a sort of generalization, however, to say that no matter what community you join you will be picked on. Sometimes you could be in a community and not actively participate in discussions with other members, but are just simply there to enjoy the content and support the creator. One predominant creator on YouTube is vlogger Tyler Oakley. Tyler’s channel has over 5 million subscribers, and he uses his platform to effect massive positive change for the LGBTQ community. In 2014, for his 25th birthday, Tyler began a prizeo campaign. Prizeo is a website where celebrities can create charity campaigns that their audiences can donate to for chances to win prizes. Tyler had done a similar campaign a year earlier for his 24th birthday and reached his goal of raising 24 thousand dollars. This year, he wanted to raise 25 thousand. What he didn’t expect was an outpour of support from his community. He ended up raising over 500 thousand dollars for the Trevor project, an organization Tyler had once worked for, that acts actively promote LGBTQ rights and offers LGBTQ youth support.

Another great act of community driven spirit is when Rooster Teeth held its annual Extra Life charity 24-hour live stream. Rooster Teeth is an online media company that has over 15 million subscribers over their network of 7 channels. They produce gaming videos, short films, and are now currently working on their first feature film. Rooster Teeth, as outlined on their website’s history page at roosterteeth.com, was founded by Burnie Burns in 2003 after they released their first episode of their now popular show Red Vs Blue. The show, a Machinima, uses the popular video game Halo to act out scenes in a short film format. This show is still the longest running web series of all time according to their website, their 13th season for RvB set to launch next year.

Rooster Teeth, every year, participates in extra life. The charity organization is ran by gamers who want to make raise money for children’s hospitals across North America. Every year, through the month of October gamers live stream themselves playing video games for 24-hour periods. Over the course of a Saturday and a Sunday, Rooster Teeth, thanks to their strong community raised over 500 thousand dollars for children’s hospitals. Over a period of 24 hours, a community of gamers from the Internet raised half a million dollars. It is an astounding feat when you see a group of people collaborate like that to make real positive change in the world, and the use of the Internet as a social mechanism is clearly displayed here.

By analyzing it’s evolution and outlining the way traditional media wants to take advantage of the Internet, this paper provides examples illustrating how the Internet is a media that is far reaching and can achieve so much more than traditional media ever could. Internet personalities like Alfie Deyes, his girlfriend Zoe, Russel Brand and Tyler Oakley are only some of the array of diverse people who use the Internet to actively share information and entertainment. Companies like Rooster Teeth offer examples that online only business models can be successful and that each of the people or groups mentioned in this paper have created strong communities of like-minded individuals who flock to the Internet to connect to one and other. Traditional media, in its centuries with us was never able to achieve this. The future of the Internet is always in motion, will it continue to grow or crash and burn? Only time and further active research can tell us that. For now, it is clear, traditional media is on its way out. The only medium worthy of your time is Internet Media. 

Acknowledgements

Brand, Russel. “New Era Reporter Row: What's The Agenda? Russell Brand The Trews (E202)”.” Online video clip YouTube. YouTube, December 3, 2014. Web. December 4, 2014.

Daniel, Burtic. “Media Industry in the Digital World.” Annals of the University Oradea, Economic Science Series (2014): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept 2014.

Davies, Lyell and Raziogova, Elena. “Framing the Contested History of Digital Culture.” Radical History Review (2013): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept 2014.

Good, Katie Day. "From scrapbook to Facebook: A history of personal  media assemblage and archives." New Media & Society 15.4 (2013): 557-573. Web. 16 Nov 2014.

Hargittail, Eszter and Zillien, NIcole. “Digital Distinction: Status-Specific types of Internet usage.” Social Science Quarterly (2009): n. pag.  Web. 1 Oct 2014.

Mueller, Bryan. “Participatory culture on YouTube: A case study of the  multichannel network Machinima.” Media@LSE MSc Disertation  Series (2014): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept 2014.

Palfrey, John. “Four Phases of Internet Regulation.” Social Research (2010): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept 2014.

Redman, Mellissa and Zeeuw, Diane. “The Landscape of Internet Culture.” Ethics & Visual Representation (2014): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept 2014.

Rooster Teeth.com. Rooster Teeth, roosterteeth.com/about/history.php, Web. December 4th, 2014.

Sanderson, Aryn. “New Media Business Models, Where Content and Commerce Collide: Strategies and Ethical Considerations for Success in a New Media World.” The Faculty of the Journalism Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (2014): n.   pag. Web. 23 Oct 2014.

Vineet, Kaul. “New PR technologies.” SCMS Journal of Indian Management (2013): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept 2014.

 

Credits for the photograph go to mkhmarketing (2011). The Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhmarketing/

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