Changing modes of media distribution
The globalisation of media content has caused extreme changes in long established industries. For decades audiences got their news from newspapers, then radio and television. Nowadays, you can get your news from almost anywhere. Big record companies no longer have control over the music industry. Independent movie making has boomed with users creating and releasing content online. Steam has opened up a huge market for independent video game titles. Podcasts are becoming even more popular than radio stations. Just have a look at these examples below:
Lil Nas X - Old Town Road: Lil Nas X was able to bypass record labels and rocket his country single 'Old Town Road' to the number one song in the US by cleverly using social media to his advantage. By pushing his Soundcloud track on Reddit and encouraging it to become a meme on TikTok, Lil Nas X was able to successfully bypass the traditional modes of distribution for music.
This is a perfect example of how media globalisation has opened up new modes of distribution for artists.
EPIC games and Fortnite: Recently, Fortnite has dominated the cultural zeitgeist and changed the way video games are being made, distributed and received. Unlike most triple A titles, Fortnite is free-to-play. It makes its money by offering in game upgrades (also knows as micro transactions). However, Fornights success can be largely measured by the developer, EPIC games, ability to keep the game culturally relevant. They keep the game constantly updated and often include internet memes in the game design and create community events such as online in-game concerts.
Audiences and Agency
The media industry is rapidly changing and now more than ever, Audiences have agency over how they consume and receive the media. There used to be tight control over what we saw and heard in the media because the media industry was traditionally controlled by media institutions and governments. The internet has given audiences more choice in the media they consume and for the first time, their own voice in the media. Here are some examples of ways that audiences have agency over the media they consume:
Social media activism - audiences are globally connected and able to spread messages via social media instantly. This has caused revolutionary ideas to spread faster and we have seen more and more revolutionary movements as a result. A famous example of this is the #arabspring revolution that started in Tunisia in 2010 and spread across the Middle East over the following years.
Fandoms - audiences have found and built online fandom communities that exert such power they can literally affect the very media they are fans of. some examples of positive fandoms include Family Guy fans that helped revive the series when it was cancelled after 2 seasons because of positive DVD sales. Or Firefly fans that were so disappointed after the cancellation of season 1 that a movie (titled 'Serenity', 2005) was made to conclude the storyline. Toxic fandoms are fans that have a negative effect on the media industry, such as Star Wars fans that hated the character of Jar Jar Binks so much that he was practically written out of 2005's Revenge of the Sith
User review revolution - as outlines in the Two Step Flow Theory, audiences are far more likely to engage with a product/the media If the message flows through an opinion leader. In the case of user review websites and apps, user reviews have become fundamental to audience reception. Websites and apps like Uber, AirBnb, Zomato, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Rotten Tomatoes operate solely based on the power of user reviews and this is slowly chaining the media industry. Films are beginning to include rotten tomato's scores in their advertising campaigns. In fact, some movies have failed at the box office, based on their rotten tomatoes scores. The national research group found that 7/10 people would not see a movie based on a poor rotten tomatoes score
Social influencers - the rise of influential people on social media marks a paradigm shift in audience agency and their relationship with the media. For the first time, any person can manipulate the media to influence others. This was traditionally a privilege that only powerful media owners had. Seemingly once everyday people have built a following on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. For example, influencers such as PewDiePie, Casey Neistat, Logan and Jake Paul, Jenna Marbles etc all build very successful careers by leveraging the power of followers on social media. The advertising industry have recently harnessed the power of influencers by paying them to vlog about their products.
Online outrage - In the past, there was no real means for a collective audience to express their views loud enough to really be heard. However, the internet has given audiences a platform to share their views en masse. The collective amount of likes or dislikes on a YouTube video, or on Rotten Tomatoes, can actually have a significant effect on the producers of the media. One such example is the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer that premiered in April 2019. The audience reception toward the design of Sonic was almost unanimously negative, so much so that the film's director, Jeff Fowler tweeted that paramount would delay the release of the film and completely re-design Sonic. This example of an audience exerting agency over Hollywood is almost unheard of.
The dynamic and changing relationship between audiences and the media
Since the beginnings of mass media communication, it was theorised that the media was powerful and audiences had little agency over the media's control and influence. However, this relationship between audiences and the media is not as top down as it once was. In an increasingly connected and globalised world, the dynamics of the relationship between audiences and the media has shifted dramatically. Audiences are now more freely able to review, share, discuss, create, evaluate, distribute and consume the media in ways that were never possible.
We have access to media on demand, when we want it, at the time that suits us. This has seen the rise of internet streaming and the fall of typical commercial and pay television.
The choice of content has ballooned and the accessibility of devices to consume that content on has increased. This has meant a drop in the tradition notion of a family all consuming the media from the one device (radio or TV)
We can have our say with the media we consume. We can post comments, review and rate our media content. This has seen a huge rise in the influence of movie reviews, and the shapeup of long established industries like hotels and taxis.
Our power to exert agency has certainly effected our relationship with the media and its ability to shape opinions and values. However, that isn't to say that the media is no longer influential. It is the modes in which the media is able to influence that have shifted dramatically. Anyone can write news articles online, so the ability for the news (or fake news) to influence is more apparent than ever. Advertising industries now target their advertising towards the individual based on their data, or push their products through influencers, making their advertising far more successful. So while audiences now exert more supposed agency in the relationship between themselves and the media, who really has the control?