Friday, August 16, 2013

The Amazon arrival - new media anxieties

Amazon dot com owner Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million USD on August 5, 2013. There is a constructive commentary by Lexington in The Economist about the purchase and the future of newspapers, especially when opinion leaders like the Post end up owned by someone like Bezos, someone unkindly described as the billionaire owner of a large warehouse business.What right has a non-communications person to move into newspaper ownership?

(see The New Yorker, August 16 for more pics of this era, scroll down the page)

Of more importance - and a real question as opposed to the faux one above is:  what happens to news when it is given the digital  treatment by new economy entrepreneurs?

Here are some Lexington suggestions as answers to that question from The Economist, August 10, 2013.

"With luck high-tech types such as Mr Bezos can dream up digital wheezes that attract new readers, while preserving the best of general interest newspapers - their breadth, and the serendipity of stumbling on unexpected articles or opinions. If new proprietors merely finance niche outlets with ever-tinier circulations, their money might do more good elsewhere. Mr Bezos has invested in space travel for instance..."

"Digital wheezes"?! What exactly would that be?  I suspect that any connotative analysis of the phrase would suggest that digital innovations are some inferior tool used by the illiterate global hordes. Semiotic analysis has its place. And in this case Lexington's intention appears to be an attempt to wind back the digital in favour of the quality broadsheets, the real deal newspapers of the nineteenth century, or the pre-Internet era. But wheezes?

The endless harping about the end of various print media traditions has two sides:
1. the traditional-literary culturalist always believes in the supremacy of Anglicised knowledge accumulation. The Tory by any other name believes in the good, the just, the right and the entitled: in short, queen and country.
2. the revolutionary visual culturalist for whom the screen is the embodiment of all human achievement, where the eye is the gateway to the ineffable soul of the masses, wherever they are.

Visual Culture is unmaking established sensibilities. Perhaps Bezos knows this and will take the Post to a place that reinvents news within a communication dimension that cannot be recognised at this time. Even Bezos does not know, he intuits. He sees the Arab Spring, the remaking of the police state in Egypt, the fragmentation of existing nations, the vicious movement of totalizing control by limited interests. The perfect conflict that is always visually engaging. The essentialism of visual culture/

Everything feeds the visual desire. This may be the $250 million investment.