Friday, August 31, 2012


MAS 110

Name: James Rotanson
Student Number: 42945062
Major: Bachelor of Arts – Media

It is almost a common sight now to see people streaming through videos in their smartphones or tuning in to their favorite radio channel in their laptops. This phenomenon of viewing content across multiple media platform is understood as Media Convergence, a situation in which multiple media systems coexist and where media content flows fluidly across them. (Jenkins, 2006). Ostensibly, media convergence is an almost infallible idea in this era of rapid migration from the old to the new media: a media platform characterized by digitization, modularity and programmability (Manovich, 2001). By focusing on Google as the main media platform in the discussion, this essay will thus discuss the effects of media convergence on Google, how the interplay has transformed the old media and the repercussions caused by it in the advertising industry.

Perhaps one of the major recent breakthrough in the world of advertising that is taking over the old media advertising platform is the advent of search engine results. As one of the most powerful IT player, Google recognizes the demand of “making information universally accessible and useful” to its users and at the same time generating 96% of its revenue (Google, 2012) through its AdWords and AdSense. Although Google does not pioneer the conception of search engine, its revolutionary PageRank algorithm and a clean user interface allow users to look for popularity-based information almost instantly. This is ultimately accountable for its huge market share in the Search Engine sector as can be seen below:

            More importantly, however, is how these outstanding figures pay tribute to the rise of media convergence that has enabled Google to migrate beyond its comfort zone to other services (Pool, 1983). For example, Google now does not merely advertises through its AdWords alone but expanded its business to other software, systems, and hardware that facilitates the fluidity of its search engine. Google Earth allows geotagging and local mapping where restaurant, bars, and shops can advertise themselves locally and globally. Google Plus smoothens the flow of word of mouth advertising within the user’s specific “circles”. In 2007, Google established the Android open-source system which supports 84 hardware and telecommunication companies under the Open Handset Alliance (Alliance, 2012). Even more recently, Google is also allowing small businesses to enjoy free advertising in order to attract traffic that will step up its local search and mapping (Volpe, 2007) which has the business implications of enabling startup ventures to compete on a more equal, “online” ground with the existing multinational companies. There are many more examples like Google Apps, Chrome, and etc. Nevertheless, all these examples clearly demonstrate the how crucial media convergence is in Google’s successful business expansion. 

The question remains though, will the advent of new digital media that is more powerful and efficient destroy existing traditional advertising media? It is very hard to speak of it from an objective vantage point because we still see billboards, newspapers, TV commercials and etc. circulating around us to serve the purpose of advertisement at this point of time. George Gilder (Jenkins, 2006) believes that the computer industry is converging with the old media in a destructive way. This is true for certain cases as the emergence of Internet TV allows one to stream TV shows and commercial in the computer. The fact that audience can now participate actively (Spurgeon, 2008) in choosing the type of advertisement they want to consume without being passively inundated by irrelevant information is probably the main cause for Gilder’s view on “destruction” of TV mass culture. Google books and advertisements may even jeopardize the existence of physical library and billboards on the road in the future due to the ease of viewing online informative material in one’s own smartphone. Not to mention later on when the Google Glass augmented reality project and a “smarter and more semantically informed network” (Bassett, Hartmann, & O'Riordan, 2008) are finally commercialized.

However, I would argue that this is a matter of absorption or hybridization rather than purely destruction. There has been an ongoing debate (Johanson, Salvador, Forbes, & Lee) on the convergence of computer and TV into a single media platform. Technically, it is very possible to advertise almost any content in both the old and new media. Some masterfully crafted advertising commercials like Mercedes can coexist in both TV and Youtube. Evian’s roller skating babies even went viral by attracting almost 58 millions view since it is first posted. Perhaps only the difference in screen size and hardware capabilities will affect the user interface and graphic quality but certainly that is perhaps better expressed as “reconstruction” and not “destruction”. An archetype of how the two distinct media platform can coexist is the Google TV which allows one to enjoy computer-based entertainment and search engine in a high definition quality of a home theater TV:

Without a doubt, there are other negative implications to Google’s seemingly infallible array of services. While its search engine is getting more personalized based on a user’s browser history, this might omit users from receiving advertising that might be relevant but is not featured due to his/her browsing habit (Pariser, 2011). The PageRank analysis is also not without a flaw as it can be manipulated by “click fraud” or repetitively clicking on the advertisement to make it appear in the top list of the search result. In addition, the “Google effect” (Latham, Psy. D., 2011) is a psychological tendency to forget information that are easily searchable. In the business sense, the way how Google is in a sense “reshaping popular culture” (Jenkins, 2006) and altering consumer behavior might also pose problems for other old media industries in coping with the changing market.

In conclusion, media convergence indeed has changed the advertising industry as information and content can now flow across different platform and ways as demonstrated by Google’s success. This phenomenon, however, is not flawless or without other repercussions towards the old media industry. Then again, it is worthy to note that media convergence is building the new and not destroying the old and thus entails new exciting opportunities in the future world of advertisement and new media.

1022 words.


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