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Consolidation of web pages?

By aphrael in News
Wed Jul 19, 2000 at 07:40:11 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

Today's NYT reports that CNET is buying Ziff-Davis. That's not particularly interesting in and of itself -- but it, combined with the current state of financing for the internet industry, raises a disturbing question:

Will large-scale web sites end up merging with each other in a pattern similar to that seen in other media industries, will three or four massive conglomerates eventually coming to 'own' 75-80% of web page viewership? Economic history in other industries suggests that it will. What will that do to the culture of the internet, and to effective control of content?

Sure, geeks tend to think of the net as being immune to information control, and it more or less is --- if you have access to, or know about, the parts of the net which aren't necessarily well advertised or promoted. But if 80% of the people don't use that part of the net, does that part of the net really matter?


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Consolidation of web pages? | 20 comments (15 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Gasp! (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by PresJPolk on Wed Jul 19, 2000 at 06:44:20 PM EST

You mean that corporations are acting in a way to maximize their financial benefit? Oh, woe is me. I never expected that! We're all doomed!

If only we, the average people, had ways of publishing information on the internet! Then this medium would be different from the rest!

If only we, the ordinary internet users, had fora where we could discuss events, and bring to each other's attention things that are going on!

Re: Gasp! (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by aphrael on Wed Jul 19, 2000 at 07:03:12 PM EST

The problem isn't that individuals can't speak, post their own pages, or have their own fora. The problem is that *on the level of the society as a whole*, those sites may be irrelevant --- the voices are only heard by those who are predisposed to hear them, and there is no *conversation* as such, just people preaching to existing, segregated choirs, with two or three 'people' being heard by everyone.

[ Parent ]
Re: Gasp! (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by PresJPolk on Wed Jul 19, 2000 at 08:44:30 PM EST

<p><i>existing, segregated choirs</i></p>
<p>And where did the people in these "choirs," come from? Are they in the Scoop tarball? "./configure; make; make community; make install"?</p>
<p>Word of mouth is very effective on the internet, since email makes it cheap and easy to spread information to lots of people at once. And, since email is stored, the information is less likely to be forgotten once spread, unlike something mentioned in a conversation.</p>
<p>Not everything popular in society comes from marketing firms. It just seems that way sometimes.</p>

[ Parent ]
Re: Gasp! (none / 0) (#8)
by Qtmstr on Wed Jul 19, 2000 at 08:54:24 PM EST

Two words: Search Engines

Kuro5hin delenda est!
[ Parent ]
Re: Gasp! (2.00 / 2) (#10)
by El Volio on Wed Jul 19, 2000 at 10:54:57 PM EST

Search engines, while really useful when you're aware of an issue, often won't do much to make others aware of an issue. F'r instance, someone might be interested in DVDs and search on "DVD", but what are the chances that DeCSS is going to come up?

OTOH, it could be that someone is looking for, say the Fry's Electronics webpage (which doesn't exist, interestingly enough), but ends up at all those pages describing bad personal experiences with that retailer. So yes, they could be useful.

Forums like this one, yes, and /., don't tend to do much to alleviate that, since there is something of a "preaching to the choir" effect. Then again, even though /. is filled with a lot of useless junk, the valuable stuff is there, and they take out large ads in industry rags (and even have a nice little k5 slashbox). So there is some value to all this.

I guess the bottom line is that, while it's not perfect, small Internet sites are still a great way to publicize various issues that otherwise would be completely hidden from public view. Kinda like Heinlein's comment regarding democracy (I'm paraphrasing here): "Democracy is the worst form of government we've come up with except for all the others."

[ Parent ]

Re: Gasp! (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 10:58:22 AM EST

since when did slashdot start taking out adverts in industry press?

(I'm in the UK, so won't have noticed these things)

[ Parent ]
Immune to Society? (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jul 19, 2000 at 08:48:49 PM EST

Geeks are not immune to society (PreJPolk) and we'll be influenced by what the majority of society does -- they tend to dictate what shows we get to watch (Simpsons) instead of all the shows that might be done (Sam & Max, Freelance Police!).

People tend to be limited by the choices of what's available. If you shop in a mega-mart, and you go to visit a friend in prison, and you go to the prison store - you woulldn't buy anything there, because you've got better options. When you get tossed in jail, thrown into solitary for a year or two, and finally get store privledges, you'd be happy to have so many choices. People tend to make themselves happy with available choices.

This doesn't mean we're doomed. The biggest problem people have had is that there's not enough of them, providing enough choice for each other. It's hard to run a different store in prison, and it's expensive to do so in the real world (besides the fact that Wal-mart will sell below cost to put you out of business...)

As long as the costs to publish webpages are next to nil (ie: not much more than the cost to have access to view web-content), then we'll be okay. Maybe over-run, maybe with fewer options, but we'll still have them. Sites like k5 & /. can still rise from someone's homepage. Yes, the money won't be there, the quality won't be full-time - all-the-time like commericial pages that can afford to hire full-time writers. But it'll be there.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

Imminent death of the net predicted. (none / 0) (#11)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 10:13:44 AM EST

Film at 11.

I'm not wearing any pants. (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 03:53:39 PM EST

Film at 11.

[ Parent ]
"Dumb medias" (none / 0) (#13)
by WowTIP on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 11:01:22 AM EST

Well, what will probably happen is that internet media will become a "dumb media" in the same way as radio, TV and movies already have. We will have (already?) some big actors, that get most of the traffic, and thus, not to be offensive to the large masses, only show tame and mainstream public shows and news. But there will probably still be some interesting stuff, if you just know where to find it.

The only exception I can think of is printed press, which most often (well...) keeps a pretty high standard. Maybe because it's harder to keep peoples attention in written text than in moving/sounding medias.

"I'm surfin the dead zone
In the twilight, unknown"

Lets do some Math (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 11:43:03 AM EST

The author seems to like the figure "80%", so we'll start with a few assumptions:

  • 80% of people only look at big corporate sites
  • 80% of websites are big and corporate
  • 80% of the time spent online by the remainder of surfers is spent looking at big corporate websites

So (.2*.2*.2) = 0.008 of all web veiwing is of non corporate sites. Call this 1%, because the maths is all hypothetical anyway. Now think about how this would scale in other medias (TV, Magazines, Cinema etc).

If 99% of web viewing is just recreating TV, Magazines and Shops online, whilst the other 1% is about meeting people, sharing experiences and getting a whole lot more out of the information you have, then I know which 1% I would say is most important. Who cares what the 80% think, they're the ones too dumb to even know it exists

(NB. Gross generalisations have been applied in this post)

Marketing (none / 0) (#16)
by Metrol on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 12:08:03 PM EST

What's really at issue here is the notion that a small site can't possibly compete due to no where near the same level of marketing that a heavily funded site has. Ummm, so what? Nobody has quite figured out how to effectively market on the web as it is. Every single heavy traffic site still utilizes a ton of old media marketing.

Where the web is still entirely different is in the fact that the barriers to entry are about $15/month and a computer. Unless you're a multi zillionaire, you can forget about publishing whatever content you have to provide to television. Even print publications have huge barriers to entry, having to rely on news stands to even carry what you publish.

Even a poorly marketed web site will gather an audience if it has compelling content. Sites such as Slashdot are an excellent example, and hopefully kur5hin as well given some time. Other non-discussion sites can also find their comfortable niche with a steady audience if they have something of value. Mass media marketing isn't the only means for getting the word out to folks.

The last thing to consider here is the present level of upkeep done to a lot of the personal home pages out there. When was the last time you saw "Bob's Home Page" updated within the last year or two? Let's face it folks, the novelty of learning HTML is long gone, and with it a lot of the home pages that folks put up a long while ago. If any of these sites actually had updates, or at least something moderately interesting to say, they would develop an audience eventually. For most of these sites though, stagnation has set in big time.

Personally, I only visit ZDNet or CNet every once in a while. I don't see their merger as even a minor threat to information control. It's far scarier to me when a Disney purchases a major portal site, or when an AOL looks to merge with the pipeline bringing the information. Thankfully, the web was extremely fortunate to have a site like Yahoo leading the way in introducing the vastness of the web to folks. With new independant portals coming on like dmoz and Google the large corporate sites will have to work that much harder to attract eyeballs away from all the upstarts. Things are still looking good in my mind.

Word of "mouth" (none / 0) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 01:51:52 PM EST

20% using "alternative media" is still a huge number. And "alternative users" aren't isolated from the rest of the world; the net makes private recommendations much more effective than real-world literal "word of mouth".

People recommend interesting/wacky web sites on newsgroups and chat lines. If the big guys refuse to provide useful links to other sites, all that does is make them more boring.

Sure, the situation may not be ideal, but things are a long way from shaking out; we don't yet know what we'll end up with. Of course, it's not clear what we can do about it if it turns out to be bad...

History says yes, but... (none / 0) (#18)
by jonkatz on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 03:47:53 PM EST

Mainstream media has been almost totally monopolized by a handful of conglomerates. I think this will happen to the major sites on the Web. The difference, I think, is that computer technology is very individualistic..gives single users a lot of media power to create sites like this, weblogs, etc. So I think there will be corners of the Net and Web that these companies don't own. But they may be marginalized as millions of people congregate around the big sites and the services they offer. The new reality is that here, everybody who has a computer and access is a media entrepeneur. That's very new.

we all live in a pokemon world (none / 0) (#20)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 03:31:37 PM EST

do you have the skills to be #1?

Consolidation of web pages? | 20 comments (15 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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