Monday, 21 May 2012

For media audiences, the internet has changed everything?

"For media audiences, the internet has changed everything." Discuss?

The impact of the internet has transformed the media industry hugely. It can be described as a global network whereby new information and media texts can be shared, emailed, 'liked' on Facebook and followed on Twitter. It is clearly a powerful tool, yet for media audiences has the internet truly changed everything?

The internet has had a vast impact on the media industry as social networking has provided up and coming artists with a platform to express themselves and an opportunity to carve out a career for themselves. In the past, singers and bands would have to play at gigs in small venues and would need to spend extortionate amounts of money in the hope of making their own CD's which would hopefully lead them to being signed by a record label. In today's climate, raw talents such as Esmee Denters a Dutch singer-songwriter who attracted the attention of Justin Timberlake in 2008, who later went on to sign her to his label Tennman Records and Conor Maynard, a 19 year old singing sensation from Brighton who began performing, recording and uploading cover versions to his YouTube channel whilst at school. However, within a few months his online following exploded, due to his popularity with fans and he was instantly signed to record label "Parlophone Records" and was also crowned the winner of MTV's Brand New Artists for 2012, have each created accounts on YouTube, uploaded videos of themselves singing and have been noticed by bigger artists and managers - none of this could have been achieved without the internet.

Even if the singer is not lucky enough to be noticed by either Usher or Justin Timberlake - Social networking online allows artists to carve out a career in a touch industry. The ability to 'like'  Facebook pages, follow on Twitter and subscribe to YouTube channels showcases how an artist can set up an account and gain popularity and recognition for next to nothing. A good example of this is is Justin Bieber a 16 year old Canadian first caught the radar as a YouTube star, when his mother uploaded home-recordings of his performances at local events. The amateur footage caught the attention of Atlanta manager Scooter Braun who then introduced Bieber to R&B super star Usher. Thanks to social networking sites he has managed to get a record deal, where he recorded an album to be sold on itunes as well as gaining an overwhelming internet following database - he has to this date 22,550,206 Twitter followers and 43,741,528 likes on Facebook.

Nonetheless, by Justin Bieber having uploaded a collection of his music videos onto YouTube, audiences are able to "dislike/like" them. Not only does this draw attention to whether audiences like him as an artist or not but it highlights how for audiences to be able to use YouTube to "dislike/like" a video, their understanding of the internet must be good enough for them  and they must be provided with an internet full of necessities to be able to do this. Theorist, Clay Shirky particularly agrees with this statement as he believes that the development of online communications and social media has allowed ideas and information to be shared easily. Websites such as YouTube and Facebook have created a platform for mass collaboration - which involves groups of people sharing ideas because of social activism online. Although, a contradiction has been made, by the likes of Mozorov who argues that new internet technologies can bring threats along with opportunities for audiences. This has ultimately lead to social media sites, for instance, Twitter and Facebook to monitor audiences uses, engaging in surveillance.

Bieber, Denter's and Maynard success applies to the theory of the long tail (Chris Anderson). The internet has had a huge impact on the music industry because it highlights how smaller artists like Bieber, Denter's and Maynard are able to earn a living by selling CD's on iTunes. The internet therefore provides niche artists with an unlimited storage space that results in music being stocked online despite there not being an overwhelming demand - which would be needed if an artist wanted to sell their CD's in a shop like Zavvi or possibly HMV. The internet has had such a dramatic effect on the music industry that music store, HMV is at risk of closing down. In today's climate 90% of single sales are online - stores are losing plenty of business and now need to be backed by record labels in order to survive. Clearly, this is a dramatic effect of the internet as CD stores have always been a permanent fixture in society previously.

Spotify, the music and social networking program relies predominantly on streaming - which has completely transformed the music industry. Streaming illustrates how audiences can listen to media without fully downloading it. Artists such as Rihanna has used this concept so that fans can 'attend' her concerts without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Streaming is also the basis of YouTube - the world's most popular video sharer. Additionally, advancements in fibre optic broadband technology has completely changed the media industry because it allows one's Mac or PC to become a media hub instead of physically attending concerts or watching music channels like MTV for hours in the hope that their favorite music video appears on screen.  This new format to viewing new media is teamed with an equal ability to create new media. Web 2.0 and the early stages of 3.0 have blurred the lines between consumer and producer creating a brand new breed - the 'prosumer'. These prosumers can upload their own footage to become great successes, for instance, Numa, Numa Boy uploaded a video to YouTube of himself singing 'Numa, Numa, Yei' which has now reached a record 46,794,208 views and as we have already seen with singers Bieber, Denter's and Maynard - who created careers for themselves after originally posting videos of themselves onto YouTube only a few months beforehand.

This can also be applied to the film industry - whereby the internet has transformed the industry hugely. Upcoming film makers can arouse popularity on social networking sites, crowd source cast and crew over the internet and can use analytics to find out where their fans are in order to showcase their film with a guaranteed audience. The footage can then be uploaded onto sites such as YouTube and more importantly -, in order for it to be viewed by the entire world. It has also affected Blockbuster cinema because viral ad campaigns over the internet can attract audiences in their masses, this was definitely the case for Guy Ritchie's - 'Sherlock Holmes' which was promoted through "high impact premium outdoor campaign", TV ads during high-audience events such as the Champions League, unmissable print placements, and publicity events such as Madame Tussauds waxwork of Robert Downy Jr and an audio walk around places that the original Holmes went. Also, another aspect of the marketing campaign was to bring images of the modern Sherlock to the walls of Baker Street tube station, all of this resulted in the film becoming sold out in theatres all over the country. Another film which opened up in 730 cinemas across the UK and became number 1 in blockbuster office was "The Kings Speech" this may have been down to the fact that the film was advertised largely in upmarket newspapers and during family TV programmes also. Additionally, sites such as 'NetFlix' and 'Love Film' mean that Blockbuster movies could be rented with the click of a button - however, like HMV this is competing with the likes of Blockbuster.

All things considered, it is obvious that the internet has changed everything, especially the way we consume it. With the use of social networking, we are all effectively 'prosumers' and as a mass we are the ones in control of the media. For instance in the UK a Facebook campaign railied for 'Rage Against The Machines - 'Killing in the name of' to become a Christmas number one and it certainly worked, the X-Factor single was placed at number two in the charts. The internet is such a strong tool that when it is used properly it can  have a dramatic result for its audiences. The internet has ultimately changed everything and has brought about a lot of positivity for audiences when using it, yet we need to be aware that all effects of the internet are not completely positive as online sales and rentals are slowly putting shops out of business and the ability to share media with ease has resulted in piracy culture where games, music and movies can be obtained for free, which signifies that the internet has had a detrimental effect on the media industry - despite all of the positives that come with being a prosumer in today's modern world. 

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