The Demise of Dissent: Why the Web Is Becoming Homogenized

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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  • diogenes

    By 1905 there were approaching 20 American magazines of moderate to large circulation that were publishing what Theodore Roosevelt, in a counter-attack, later labeled “muck-racking,” a phrase which, like his other coinage, “lunatic-fringe,” was calculated to stick — and has, thanks to Big Media. Twelve years later all these magazines were either gone or no loner publishing investigative journalism devoted to matters of public concern (“muck-racking”). This was accomplished primarily by syndicating advertising revenues, so that a handful of agencies controlled all ad revenues flowing to publications, and publications which did not cooperate their their censorship were cut off. Magazines were dependent on ad revenues because big-advertising
    publications had driven their prices down by competitive price wars, to
    below the cost of publishing. Without ad income they could not publish
    competitively. Some publications were simply bought out and had their management and policies changed.

    Apparently this scenario is being repeated, to some extent, but since a website costs very very little, compared to a magazine or a newspaper to publish, the control of advertising cash flows is a less powerful tool in this situation. Plainly it is not the only factor at play in present-day media censorship.

    • Lupita

      Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
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  • Shiggity

    Every problem on planet Earth today can be routed back to one issue, wealth inequality.

    Societies just don’t work well when the resources are monopolized. But if you utter one word of that in public you’ll get a 1950’s style McCarthyist beat down. You will also be labeled a terrorist.

    • Sparticus

      And, it is always, the Christians who attack, so, if you want to SHUT their filthy mouths tell them that JESUS told His followers to give everything to the POOR. Also, Jesus had no home and slept in parks. Jesus knew how to defeat the Capitalist PIG you simply do not participate in your own enslavement. Jesus, believe in him or not, was very wise.

      However, it is up to the wisdom of the reader to ascertain it. Simply, what would happen if every christian simply stopped feeding wall street? This is all very easy. They would have to OBEY the people and Repent of their SINS or they would all GO BROKE!

    • rtj1211

      So you get a beat down and a label. You stand firm, disagree and put your countercase with vigour.

      The first rule of politics is to expect to be attacked, threatened, smeared and trashed. In order to participate, you have to have weapons sufficiently strong to deter the cheap shot artists. A list of put downs so understated that the biter will have been bitten back delightfully. A comparison of the heinous crime of having sex as opposed to the enlightened action of bombing women and children. The ability to ask calmly when the last time your trasher satisfied the opposite sex in bed. The ability to state you would happily take an overdose if the smear was actually factually accurate.

      Of course it would be lovely if people engaged respectfully. Thing is, huge wealth inequality would not exist if people did. Smearing, trashing, labelling and belittling is part of a monopolists makeup.

      So get over the need for niceness and move on to the ability to stand your ground in return….

  • jadan

    Advocate net neutrality, which is the only reason you exist on the web in the first place. Set up your own shop and attract subscribers with your original and interesting content. Provide some free content as a teaser. Who are you working for? Advertisers or your fans? If you have enough fans, the ads will come. If your work doesn’t attract lots of fans, that fact may be the message. You should probably have a day job to support your habit. Many are called, few are chosen. Don’t blame FB or Google.

    • Jennifer

      Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it GoogleNetJobsHelpWorkFromHome..

    • Sandra

      Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
      On tuesday I got a great New Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleDailyConsumerThinkJournalsJobsReport1/easy/jobs ★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫:::::!da223luuuuus

  • Conall

    Use DuckDuckGo for your searches, never Google!

    (Irony alert: I’m signed in here thanks to my gmail account!)

  • Sparticus

    You know, for a society so obsessed with money most people have ZERO net worth or less. Revolution is needed because it is not natural for people to accept a government that uses their money to JAIL them and make War upon the Poor with Impunity. Many Trillions Wasted on War. Trillions that could have paid for Universal Healthcare, Education and even Basic Income. Nothing will change reality without Force; which is why the Constitution allows the people to use Force. Citizens Arrest along with Rights to Bear Arms allows the People to form a Militia and Take Control. There will never be an excuse for Americans “who voluntarily pay taxes” and support government. Non-Violence will be Convicted for Supporting the US government because it is VIOLENCE!

    People need to organize in a more professional manner. A new political party needs to form. The Internet can assist as a tool but you have to have an Army. No Army, No Dice. If you do not believe in Violence than you are a complete loon, because you support Violence, unparalleled , with your Tax Support of the US government. Mega-Trillions have been shot into the SAND with Lunatic Wars for the enrichment of Wall Street PIGS. It is time for Americans to put a Trillion Dollar Short On Wall Street, until they learn to Share the Wealth. They must learn who gives them FREEDOM; because they have made slaves of the population ( taking away our Freedom) now we must unite and take away their freedom and stop permitting them to loot and control our Government.

    Too Busy, Enjoy your Slavery.

    • rtj1211

      You do not actually have a choice about paying taxes, so paying them is no signal of support. It is a signal you do not want your kids to starve.

      The best way to retreat is to the land. Not all will wish to do it, but self-sufficient living can totally ignore government. You own your land, you work it, you sustain it.

      That is the simplest signal of all, unless the Government makes it illegal to be an owner-manager of a smallholding.

      If that happened, the US would be the world’s biggest laughing stock…..

  • rtj1211

    There are quite a lot of folks who have built a few hundred thousand subscribers in niche areas. They tend to do it as a hobby, only considering monetising after a decade of building up readers. Some are sports related, some climate, some politics, some other things.

    Some are retired on a pension.

    It is not easy, but independent voices are out there. I no longer use Google and rarely use Facebook. I do use the net quite a bit….