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.