The Internet has so far not only disrupted the media business in this millennium: it has transformed it – and, in some cases, overpowered it. As he retreats two decades later on the Internet to NZ, Jordan Carter looks back at how the Internet has now become the primary means of reaching people – and the problems it brings.
Kiwis could easily use the media without the Internet altogether 20 years ago when Jordan Carter first joined Internet NZ, the nonprofit group campaigning for safe, secure and effective internet access and services.
Back then, television and radio were available for free over the air – and you could keep up with the daily news by buying the newspaper, or even subscribing to it.
For now, you still can – but if you don’t subscribe to an ISP either, you’re missing out on instant news and entertainment on demand. (However, you will not be exposed to the current internet extremism and overreactions).
Jordan Carter saw the Internet evolve from an interesting option for the media industry to become its main source of audiences and innovation.
For some media outlets, the Internet has been an instrument of destruction, making entire sectors redundant and draining its advertising revenue.
Money that used to go into media jobs and news and content here is now going overseas to what were once new sunrise start-ups, but are now united into the richest and fastest growing companies in the world.
He was in Paris three years ago with Jacinda Arden to mediate the Christchurch Call, which aimed to eradicate internet extremism. Three years later, the prime minister was in the United States this week telling Harvard students “the time is now” to deal with social media algorithms reinforcing extremism.
“I certainly didn’t understand how it would appear in terms of the kind of social consequences of it,” Jordan Carter said. Mediawatch.
“The big problem for the media industry has been that the control of the advertising dollar has gone away. Classified ads in the newspaper industry have disappeared pretty quickly. But what people do on internet platforms has revealed our preferences. , the vendors will always change their algorithms to something else, ”he said.
“Fair, well-balanced journalism is good for democracy. But it turns out that the way our brains are wired is not entirely good for keeping people from moving their streams over and over again. great technology platforms, ”he said.
Digital separation is real
When Jordan Carter became chief executive at Internet NZ, one of the big problems then was connectivity and the broadband launch.
He has since become concerned about the “digital divide” in the media. Nowadays many people talk about internet services as if they were ubiquitous or universal – as well as fast.
“Radio doesn’t cost you $ 60 or $ 80 a month, which can make a broadband connection. The (Covid-19) pandemic was a good case study on the risks surrounding a lack of digital equality, “he said.
“Households have tried to deal with remote work or children in education and some have not been near a network like fiber or even a fairly mobile signal. Affordability of it has been a real big barrier for some people,” he said.
“There is a massive public interest in ensuring that almost everyone can get broadband, but there is no discussion going on in our society,” he said.
“Fixing issues for people who don’t (have access to) is not a huge problem that would need billions of dollars of taxpayer money to solve.
“Successful governments have done a great job of connecting and getting the networks up and running. But (they were) obviously resilient to this small investment that would be needed to put it in order.
“It’s just an unfinished thing that I’m upset about leaving behind,” he said. Mediawatch.
Ten years ago, media companies were under pressure from shareholders and owners to bolster their finances because the expected digital revenue did not fill the void of lost advertising to the Internet and fast internet social media.
Sky TV tried to merge with Vodafone in a deal, which Mediawatch interpreted as a sign that media companies could be swallowed up as mere content sections of a much more lucrative telkos.
“I think you were quite wrong. I would be super-surprised to see any development to bring together large connectivity providers and content providers, ”Carter said.
Eventually, the Commerce Commission countered the “VodaSky” offer, but media companies began sharing content on other platforms to speed up their reach, as websites and social media became their main channels for sharing news.
Only in recent years have established established news media companies – and newer start-ups – seriously attempted to raise revenue from online subscribers and donors.
Did the media react quickly enough to the Internet – and then to the power and speed of broadband?
“No – but I don’t think any sector has,” Carter said Mediawatch.
“Think about the music industry. It started to face this challenge earlier and for a long time the revenue of the music industry fell. People said it was the end of the music industry, but you don’t hear such things anymore because the business models evolved, “he said.
“People still pay to go to live concerts, and so on – and I think you’re starting to see in the local media some subscription journalism with systems like Substack and Newsroom for example that people are willing to put in some money for contentment.” he said.
“Some of the larger media companies have started to make more use of the opportunities that technology has made available. And it will be fascinating to see where the management buy-in at Stuff goes in the next few years,” he said.
Another variable in recent years is the so-called “cultural war” and political struggles over freedom of expression. Will this actually make the internet more secure and profitable?
“It simply came to our notice then. We are in a little bit of a war – and I think what happened in Ukraine highlights that, ”said Carter.
“The Russian state has been using some of the vulnerabilities of this social media environment for a long time to intervene in other countries. They seem to be saying, ‘Well, we can never win a frontal confrontation with the liberal democracies, but we can use this those systems they have built to undermine their social and political cohesion. ‘
“That’s a risk that people wake up to,” he said.
“Ever since publishing was invented, you’ve had people publishing bizarre opinions. The problem is not when a person chooses to express “random view X”, with which they may or may not agree. The problem is when their systems reinforce it in a way that then creates social divisions that weren’t necessarily there.
“Environmental systems have become attached to the most controversial and polarizing views, and then continue to excite them so that people are separated from each other,” he said.
“In New Zealand, we can look at the reforms that we might think of as the hate speech laws, and say, ‘How do we create systems of law and regulation as we do in every other media environment that can deal with systemic dissemination?’ of? this thing? ‘ And I think that could take away the temperature a little bit.
“Perhaps I am too optimistic about it. But there’s a challenge here on how we deal with these online user-generated content systems that have grown a bit without the law continuing.
“Ten years ago, the atmosphere was really ‘cyber-libertarian’. Stay out of the way, just leave the internet to do your own thing, ”Carter said.
“What happened in Christchurch was the wake-up call that said we need to actually have effective responses to content that is just beyond the pale. And I’m proud to be a part of the development of that point of view.”