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The New Front Page

New Media and the Rise of the Audience

By Tim Dunlop
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The New Front Page by Tim Dunlop

The New Front Page (2013) explains how the advent of the internet radically changed the media landscape. Today, audiences are no longer a mere target for advertisers; they’re empowered customers and, more often than not, even a part of the editorial process itself.

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As the media landscape shifted, audiences went from being powerless products to influential customers.

Whether you’re turning on the television or firing up your web browser, you have a wide variety of channels to get your news from. These days, this is something people take for granted. But let’s not forget that it’s a relatively recent development.

Before the commercialization of the internet, there were a handful of media corporations that sought an audience for one primary reason: to sell advertising space.

The corporations were essentially factories, creating products designed to be appealing to advertisers with big bank accounts. And the bigger the audience, the more money they could charge.

Whether it was programming for radio, television or newspapers, the aim was always the same: maximize the profits.

In this sense, the audience wasn’t so much a conglomerate of customers as a component of the product itself. But now the audience is no longer a voiceless mass; today, it’s composed of true customers.

As the internet grew, audiences were given the ability to pick and choose where they got their news and entertainment – and, as a result, the big media outlets lost their power.

Every day there were new websites and blogs offering articles, videos and instant updates. People no longer had to rely on individual news providers for everything. They could now pick and choose.

What’s more, rather than being a passive audience, people had the power to start their own blog or website and become their own news provider.

The time was ripe for this transformation. In the early aughts, bloggers became a popular source of news as the war in Iraq dragged on and turbulent presidential elections unfolded.

And while this was going on, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook began allowing people to compile their own “front page” made up of these various online news publications.

Today, media companies are under increasing strain to hold onto their audience. These companies do this by engaging with their audience and using audience opinion to create more desirable content – which means that, radically, the audience is no longer just a means to an end.

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