With GAFA in charge

With GAFA in charge, it’s a sad day for democracy

I am concerned and alarmed.

I have just been reading the latest trends in the use of mobile phones compared to desktop computers. 3.2 billion people now have mobile phones – nearly half the world’s population – and within 12 months more people will link to the Internet on their phones than either the tablet or the larger screen PC. This is a disaster for democracy.

Why? Two reasons. First, how many words are you prepared to read about one subject on a mobile phone? Two, you and I are no longer searching for news – we are waiting for it to be delivered to us.

The smart phone is transforming the world

Combined, these two points inevitably lead to us being dumbed down when it comes to understanding current affairs and government policy and actions. Let me explain.

The rise and rise of the big four

In the media industry it is being openly discussed that the four American businesses of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (now referred to as GAFA) have won the battle of hijacking customers of advertising. The marketing dollars are flowing out of every form of traditional media into digital platforms. The forecast is many medias will downsize or close. For instance newspapers will stop printing and eventually close. TV networks will stop producing local programs and local news and could eventually close. Radio is likely to survive but only because of its low cost of production.

As the money dries up for each of these medias, the quality of their content will decline and more of us will be driven to our phones to get our news and entertainment. And we have demonstrated that our attention span on our phones is getting shorter.

Just 24 months ago for instance, the general view was an information video can’t be longer than three minutes to keep the attention of a viewer. Now that length is 60 to 90 seconds.

A rich information article in a newspaper is at least 1500 words. A rich information article in the digital sphere, being read on a phone, is 300 to 500 words.

Slaves to our phones

And where do we get this information from in the digital world. The new slogan in digital media is: “if it is important it will find me”. This means that we consumers (and voters and the taxpayers) are building the habit of opening our phones and looking at the stories that our phones deliver to us rather than going out and searching for them – on say, a formal news platform.

Think about it. We open our phone to be immediately met by alerts to say we have Facebook or WhatsApp or email messages screaming for our attention. As soon as we open them we are hijacked off on a journey which will include pop-ups of ‘news’ that consume our attention and time.

This journey behind the scenes is controlled largely by Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. GAFA is deciding what is important and they are finding you and me and delivering it to us.

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A special thanks to our contributors

Caroline Egan

DCM Media, agedcare101

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

Ian Horswill


Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.