The Demise of Dissent: Why the Web Is Becoming Homogenized

By Charles Hugh Smith

In other words, we’ll be left with officially generated and sanctioned fake news and “approved” dissent.

We’ve all heard that the problem with the web is fake news, i.e. unsubstantiated or erroneous content that’s designed to mislead or sow confusion.

The problem isn’t just fake news–it’s the homogenization of the web, that is, the elimination or marginalization of independent voices of skepticism and dissent.

There are four drivers of this homogenization:

1. The suppression of dissent under the guise of ridding the web of propaganda and fake news–in other words, dissent is labeled fake news as a cover for silencing critics and skeptics.

2. The sharp decline of advertising revenues flowing to web publishers, both major outlets and small independent publishers like Of Two Minds.

3. The majority of advert revenues now flow into the coffers of the quasi-monopolies Facebook and Google.

4. Publishers are increasingly dependent on these quasi-monopolies for readers and visibility: any publisher who runs afoul of Facebook and Google and is sent to Digital Siberia effectively vanishes.

The reason why publishers’ advert incomes are plummeting are four-fold:

1. Most of the advert revenues in the digital market are being skimmed by Facebook and Google, as the chart below illustrates.

2. Ad blockers have become ubiquitous.

3. Few people click on the display ads that are the standard in desktop web publishing; in other words, these ads simply don’t work very well, and much of the revenue being generated is click-fraud, i.e. bots not real people clicking on adverts because they’re interested in the product/service. As a result, advertisers are pulling away from these type of ads as they search for advert models that aren’t so vulnerable to click-fraud.

4. The web is increasingly shifting to mobile, which has fewer advert spots due to the small size of the display. In addition, major third-party advert services such as Google AdSense place restrictions on the number and size of ads being displayed on publishers’ sites.

The systemic erosion of advert revenues for everyone other than FB and Google is evident everywhere: for example, BuzzFeed Set to Miss Revenue Target, Signaling Turbulence in Media Prospects for a 2018 initial public offering by the high-profile publisher now appear remote.

Digital publisher BuzzFeed is on track to miss its revenue target this year by a significant amount, the latest sign that troubles in the online-ad business are making it tough for new-media upstarts to live up to lofty expectations.

As a result of these two dynamics–the censorship of dissenting views under the excuse of limiting fake news, and the erosion of advert income–independent publishers are losing ground. While those posting on Facebook and other social media sites have little expectation of monetizing their content, many web publishers made enough income off adverts or affiliated income (from YouTube channels, for example) to justify the enormous time and effort they expended keeping their channel/site going.

As advert income has dwindled, there are only two other revenue models available to publishers: a subscription service or Patreon, i.e. the direct financial support of users/readers/viewers. Major publishers are struggling to build a subscription base large enough to fund their operations, a task made more difficult by the expectation that all content is free or should be free.

Patreon has been a boon for thousands of independent writers, journalists, cartoonists, filmmakers and other creators of content. The Patreon model (as I understand it, and yes I have a Patreon campaign) is not based on content that’s behind a paywall available to subscribers only, but on providing incentives in the form of content or other rewards to those who choose to contribute.

The Patreon model only works if enough users/readers/viewers step up to support content creators they value. I think the success of Patreon suggests that many people are willing to support the content creators they value. But like all voluntary revenue models, there’s the free-rider issue: people who may have the income to pay a bit for content choose not to, and in essence free-ride on those few who do contribute/pay for content.

Some people have advanced the model of micropayments as the solution to the problem of compensating content creators fairly. While this model has some obvious benefits–pennies charged for access to content might add up to a living for content creators if their audience was large enough–it would still be a voluntary system, and thus it would have the same free-rider issue as every other voluntary payment-for-content idea.

Posting “free” content on social media ends up driving advert revenues to the social media and search monopolies, leaving nothing for the content creators. There is only so much serious content that can be created for free.

If what we’re left with is “free” content (i.e. the creator gets no income for creating and posting content), Facebook, Google and click-bait link farms of sensationalist headlines, we’ll end up with a thoroughly homogenized web of “approved content” underwritten by lobbyists, the entertainment industry and elitist foundations/think tanks, and little in the way of real dissent or diversity of independent analysis.

In other words, we’ll be left with officially generated and sanctioned fake news and “approved” dissent: unemployment is at record lows, inflation is near zero, the “recovery” is alive and well, Russia is the enemy and any suggestion to the contrary is propaganda that must be eradicated as fake news, etc.

Simply put, the web is becoming Orwellian. There’s plenty of approved “diversity of opinion,” but dissent is being sidelined to the fringes as a risk to the perfection of managed content.

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9 Comments on "The Demise of Dissent: Why the Web Is Becoming Homogenized"

  1. In reading the article I can see the points. Yet there is a counterpoint which seems missing. The Internet is not wholly the Web. For example people still use Gopher, FTP. This by no means is a panacea, but it does offer another route to consider.

  2. If money is the motivating factor of “dissent”, then it is compromised before a word is uttered or written. Face it. ESPECIALLY in a nation where (((currency counterfeiters))) are running that scamOp down at the Fed.

    • lightingstrikesthrice | November 19, 2017 at 11:08 am | Reply

      I concur Louis Charles. Currency is bondage, nothing more. Why currency, in any form, was created in the first place. To create a hierarchy of power, a kakistocracy and enslaving the masses to hierarchical masters. Until the masses know this, we as humanity are lost, the agendas will go ahead as scheduled.

      • LST. I can’t agree with you completely here. Currency has its place in a free society. It facilitates commerce that couldn’t possibly happen solely with barter amongst men. I do not believe currency was first created by tyrants, but by merchants who needed a means to store wealth, and have the means to purchase something before “the crops were harvested”. Counterfeiting is the activity of tyrants, I would concur. In any case, the key is to NOT allow money and the things it can purchase to become your god. Covetousness is a Grave Sin.

  3. In order for advertising to work there must be buyers for the goods or services. With all that the prosperity that has followed each of the big tax cuts over the past 37 years, the % of people who are in the consumer class has gone from about 2/3 until to day with less than 50 with more declines to follow at an increasing rate. The reason why facebook and google are profitable is that some advertisers do not know that we are using the services because we do not have the money to buy anything and are just browsing. If a trip around the world cost a dollar I could not even afford to make it to my front door. Supply Side is based on ‘build it and they will come’ so the auto manufacturors built the 2017 models and there are new car lots so full that there might be no market for 2018 models, so no need for auto workers, no money to spend at even WalMart leading to more of nothing, which is not edible. The prices of beans and rice have doubled in the past 5year and cat food has gone to 60 cent a can from 3 for a dollar – leading indicators?

  4. when google asks me why i deleted an ad, which i do on principle, i now always send them the message – IRRELEVANT – even when i might legitimately be interested in the product / service being advertised

  5. This is all true to some extent but as always there is the larger picture.When CIA chief William Casey allegedly uttered the phrase “We will know when our job is done when everything the American people believe is false” he was speaking a truth. This idea has been taken up in a grand fashion and not only in America. The idea is to distort political reality so much so that the public is no longer able to discern what is real and what is fake or what reality is. This as politicians are simply not able to cope with the complexities of today’s world, handing management over to the corportocracy which has the computing power to try and divine these complexities. In Russia the political operative Valdislov Serkov (sp?) from the theatrical world began manipulating political reality, creating anti fascist and skin head fascists groups alike and even anti Putin political parties with the end goal we see which is Putin staying in power for the last 18 years. The same purposeful political management style has been transferred to the west and produced the ambiguity that is Trump. Politicians can no longer steer society towards a better world and those that try are seen as dangerous to the old power structure that has always been. The internet is vital to spreading this unreality which has been termed “hyper normalization.”

    While not in agreement with the entirety of this doc there are some great gems of insight as how the world got to where we are today.

  6. Homogenization… an interesting word.
    Here’s an idea to consider… homogenize government! That’s what needs to be done. Listen to this message to the end, and we the People can begin to understand what it will take to restore our liberties.

  7. There is another option for content creators: sell products and/or services. This is the model that Infowars has long pioneered with great success.

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