Friday, March 30, 2007

Media consolidation – yes!

It’s ironic for a media reformer to advocate consolidation these days. The mainstream private sector media in the USA are heavily and justifiably criticized for excessive concentration of ownership (e.g. But the nascent market for voter-funded media at UBC is at a very different stage of evolution, and has a very different incentive structure.

The brave souls who jumped into this unknown VFM contest in January 2007 had a lot of fun with it. We saw an exciting proliferation of new media styles. Next year there will be less uncertainty about how a VFM contest works, and many more people will know about it in advance. So we can expect more media groups to form and join in the fun. They will all look at what happened in January 2007 to see what is possible and what worked, then plan how to do it better. The bar will be raised!

In this earlier post and spreadsheet I analysed how the various media entrants won votes by their very different strengths. I predict that next year’s contestants will win more votes by assembling teams with several capabilities:

1. Insightful coverage of AMS policies in fall 2007.

2. Coverage and endorsements of electoral candidates in January 2008.

3. Reviews and endorsements of media contestants.

4. Graphics, photos, videos.

5. Humour.

6. Name recognition – some already have it; some will invest in it for the future.

7. Website presentation – appealing, easy to use.

8. Print publication – even if it’s just a flyer with summary info and website reference.

9. Other promotion, e.g. on Facebook.

Some examples of how January 2007 contestants could fortify their offerings: The Underground could create a website. The Thunderbird could recruit some AMS insider knowledge. The Knoll could get a photographer. The 432 could have more AMS-related content (humorous and/or serious). Elections Insider could print flyers. This media team formation can be facilitated by a Facebook group, by a networking meeting in September, etc.

It’s ultimately up to the voters though – media are free to consolidate or not as they wish, and voters are free to vote as they wish. The voter funding mechanism is designed to pull toward the public interest, including toward the degree of consolidation that is in the public interest. At a later stage of evolution, we could see some return to media specialization. But that would require a more sophisticated pattern of media referencing and crediting each other, plus voters voting for media they don’t read directly but benefit from by reference.

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