There is an interesting trend that might be telling for those looking at the future of media. That trend is illustrated no more precisely than when you look at newspapers. Bill Moyers, in his 2007 report said it like this,
“The number of media corporations that dominate has shrunk over the past 25 years from 50 to just a handful. 80% of the countries daily papers are now owned by conglomerates.”
When newspapers were first coming into the public consciousness, they all began as personal, niche publications with tiny circulations. Over time, these publications were bought, sold and consolidated until they became huge conglomerates. Not only did this reduce the number of different voices presenting the news but it also allowed revenues to grow as advertisers were able to deal with a single company and buy into multiple geographies.
When you look at new media, you have to wonder whether the same thing is happening. In the last 18 months, many of the largest blogs (C-NET, Ars Technica, Paid Content et al) have been purchased by large news conglomerates. I wouldn’t be surprised if several others are snapped up in the next few years. The reasons are similar to what happened to newspapers, the reality is that the majority of mainstream news consumers only read a small number of online publications and it’s much easier to sell advertising when you have a larger number of varied content producers under your belt.
The question becomes what effect will consolidation have on an industry that works, in part, because it is highly distributed and independent?