Media convergence is the phenomenon that involves the interlocking of computing/ information technology companies, telecommunications networks, and content providers in the publishing world of newspapers, magazines, music, radio, television, films, and entertainment software.
Media convergence brings together the “three Cs”—computing, communications, and content.
Convergence has occured at two primary levels: 1) at the level of technologies—creative content is converted into digital forms for delivery through broadband or wireless networks for display on various computer or computer-like devices, from cellular telephones to personal digital assistants (PDAs) to digital video recorders (DVRs) connected to televisions. 2) at the level of industries—companies across the business spectrum from media to telecommunications to technology have merged or formed strategic alliances in order to develop new business models that can profit from the growing consumer expectation for “on-demand” content.
Media convergence marks the twilight of the “old media” of print and broadcasting and the rise of “new media” associated with digital publishing that allows one-to-one and many-to-many distributions of content. This development contrasts sharply with the one-to-many distribution that was characteristic of 20th-century ‘old’ mass communications. Digital publishing also has empowered many ordinary individuals to become involved directly or through collaborative efforts in creating new content because of the ease of producing and distributing digital content over the Internet.
Newspapers and magazines: Virtually all major newspapers and magazines now operate a Web site. In modern societies worldwide, consumers access the latest news from television broadcasts, such as those presented by CNN or BBC, instead of having to wait until the next day to read about it in the newspapers. With the proliferation of online editions, the newspapers put more resources into competing on the Web; this led to the addition of still more multimedia content, such as photographs, audio, and video, as well as blogs (essentially editorials) and forums to attract interaction with their readers. The challenges have been less sharp for magazines. In both cases, it is those mastheads with high credibility among consumers (such as The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and The Economist) that have fared best in the convergent online media space.
Radio, television and movies: Podcasting a neologism from a combination of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcasting’, refers to digital audiovisual files that are distributed over the Internet, typically to personal computers and portable media devices. Public broadcasters, such as the BBC were quick to act on the potential of podcasting in order to extend the audience reach of their radio programming, as it eliminated the time dependency of traditional broadcasting schedules. Soon television shows could be bought for a small fee and watched on iPods, cellular telephones, and other portable devices. As access to broadband networks proliferated in the 2000s, the movie industry began experiencing concerns regarding content being copied and distributed by unauthorized individuals over the Internet. However, media convergence opened the possibility of selling digital versions of their content through regular commercial outlets. In addition, supplying user-requested, or on-demand, content through special broadband networks set up for the purpose has become possible. YouTube allows individuals to share videos, some of which have infringed on copyrighted material.
Market fragmentation in the Internet age: Traditionally, advertisers relied on reaching a large, stable customer base through print, radio, and television ads. Audience fragmentation in the 21st century complicated the picture. While consumers could usually be relied on to wait through 30-second radio and television ads, few people demonstrated that much patience for similar ads on their mobile digital devices or their personal computers. A particularly interesting development, sometimes referred to as the golden convergence, has been the battle to control the home-entertainment space in the 21st century. The start of this convergence can be seen in the creation of television channels dedicated to electronic gaming from one side and the inclusion of Internet and television recording and playback features in video game machines from the other side.
Still another growing battle in the age of the Internet has concerned the sharing of revenue, not just between the technology, communications, and content companies but with all of the people involved in creating and producing the content. Typically, contracts have not included any form of revenue sharing for the new digital distribution channels. With so much money at stake, all sides have been reluctant to compromise, which has led to bitter confrontations.
Social networkinig sites (SNS), are those that create communities of people online, and provide the required software for interaction among them such as instant messaging and chat rooms, e-mail, notes and blogs, file sharing, forums or other types of discussion groups, videos, and so on. Online communities attained more prominence in the 1990s when computer-mediated communication enabled new forms of interaction both in public life and in virtual reality worlds.
Some leading social networking sites include Flickr (photography), Wikipedia (online encyclopaedia), YouTube (videos), various aggregated blog Web sites (Blogger, Livejournal, and Technorati), and “personal profile” Web sites (MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and Bebo). People use social networking sites for a huge number of personal reasons. Some may want an easy way to keep in touch with family and friends, some may use it for business or job finding, others may use it for dating or just to find like-minded individuals online. Some participants find their virtual lives more interesting and fulfilling than their real lives.
In general, these Websites are designed with minimal centralized controls, with the focus on users and their interactions with one another. Whenever possible, they employ open-source software that can be adapted and modified according to changing requirements. Relatively simple and “lightweight” in their design, they have minimal administrative, start-up, and ongoing development costs.
Like all Internet technologies, social networking sites also come with their fair share of security concerns, mostly privacy issues. Many social networking sites today do offer some form of privacy by allowing its users to choose a public, private or limited viewing profile. On some sites two users must both agree to be “friends” before they can see each others’ private profile information.