Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The future of bourgeois press and the end of the media elite

Today, the bourgeois press still relies on personal brands as a marketing strategy. We have star columnists and journalists with distinct voices and so on, and publications pay them large salaries and give enormously outsized personal platforms, and readers have particular favorites who they follow from outlet to outlet. To get in these positions, you have to have a personality and political orientation that's compatible with capitalist marketing imperatives.

What this means in practice is that we have a whole industry that attracts some of the worst people in the world, that fetishizes their opinions and intellect, and that puts them in our face constantly. This, for all kinds of historical reasons, is the particularly obnoxious way that capitalism advances its ideology.

There are a lot of significant reasons to suspect that this state of affairs isn't going to last. In most industries, marketing has moved over time from personal to impersonal brands. This is particularly true in industries where the worker is significantly alienated from his product (through divisions of labor, for example) and where production is automated - both increasingly prominent trends in the media. Moreover, the same market pressures that depress wages and cultivate precarity also increasingly disincline outlets from investing too much in individual workers.

It seems to me that in the long run, we're quite likely to see a media industry dominated by impersonal corporate brands instead of personal ones, with content produced from rote-reporting and press conference stenography, corporate marketing department press releases, Medium / Tumblr style IMHOs from randoms, lazy Twitchy-style second-hand aggregation, and (in a final insult) completely automated composition from increasingly clever AI. We are well on this road already.

This is going to be a much more cost-effective way for capitalism to disseminate its ideology, and as it becomes inreasingly microtargeted, narrowcasted and prolific, it's probably going to be significantly more persuasive. This will be a dystopia of a different sort, but one major consolation is that our media elite is going to wither away. I am, however perversely, looking forward to it.