Public isn’t what it used to be: From Time to Reputation


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Paper presented at the Digital Ethnography Week, Fondazione Href, Trento, 20 settembre 2012

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Public isn’t what it used to be: From Time to Reputation

  1. 1. Public isn’t what it used to be: From Time to Reputation Digital Etnography Week Trento, 17-21 September 2012 Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  2. 2. networked are publics that are restructured by networked technologies (Boyd publics 2011:41). These kinds of publics all share 4 fundamental affordances that make them different from all the previous mediated publics: Persistence means that in SNS the public’s expressions are automatically recorded and archived. This means that feedbacks (opinions, feelings and comments) of every listener are public and since they can remain on line for a long time they can also have a role in shaping the reputation of the radio station. Replicability means that the content produced in networked publics is easily replicable. Scalability in networked publics refers to the possibility of tremendous - albeit not guaranteed - visibility. This means that, for example, unique listeners commenting and talking about a radio show on its social network profile can reach a wide audience. Searchability means that content produced by networked publics can be easily accessed. Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  3. 3. a) Change in the publicness of publics (more visible, more audible) The implant of SNS on the body of the radio medium renders the immaterial capital made up by the listeners public and tangible. While until recently the public was invisible to radio and was confined to its private sphere except in the case of phone calls during a programme, today listeners linked to the online profile of a radio programme are no longer invisible or private (as underlined by Gazi, Starkey, Jedrzejewski, 2011), and the same goes for their opinions and emotions. And if emotions and opinions are no longer invisible or private, they are measurable. For the first time in Radio history, listeners are not only numbers: their feelings, opinions and reputation are trackable and measurable through netnographic methods (Kozinets 2010). To this end Arvidsson claims that “the remediation of social relations that has accompanied the rise of consumer culture has managed to transform the nature of affect, from something private or at least located in small interaction systems, to something that acquires an objective existence as a value creating substance in the public domain. Social media have taken this process one step further” (Arvidsson 2012:forthcoming). Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  4. 4. b) Change in the speaker-to-listener relation The new communication model that derives from the short-circuit between radio and social media is a hybrid model, partly still broadcast, partly already networked. Radio is still a one-to-many means of communication. However, telephone already made it partly a one-to-one medium (phone interview) and many-to-one (open mic, phone talk radio); to this we have to add SNS, which are at once a one- to-one (chat), one-to-many (tweets, FB notes or posts), many-to-many (FB Home, Twitter hashtags), many-to-one (FB comments) kind of media. The mix between radio and SNS considerably modifies both the hierarchical/vertical relation between the speaker/presenter and the public, and the horizontal relation between each listener. Both types of relation are approaching a less hierarchical peer-to-peer culture. New practices of dynamic typical of co-creation of contents. Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  5. 5. c) Change in the listener-to-listener relation Fans of a radio programme can establish links online, exchange public comments on the programme’s wall, express more or less appreciation for specific contents, exchange contents on their personal walls, write each other private messages or chat with each other. The radio’s public has never been so publicised. While before SNS the concept of radio public was a purely abstract entity, which could be understood sociologically and analysed statistically, today this public is no longer only an imagined one (Anderson 1993). People who listen frequently to a radio programme and are its fans on FB have the opportunity, for the first time, to see and recognise each other, to communicate, to create new links while bypassing the centre, in other words the radio programme itself. “The gatekeeping function of mass media is challenged as individuals use digital media to spread messages much farther and more widely than was ever historically possible” (Gurak 2001). While a radio public is an invisible group of people who are not linked together, the SNS audience of a radio programme is instead a visible group of people/nodes in a network, connected by links of variable intensity. Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  6. 6. d) Change in the value of publics (a new social capital?) This visible group of people/nodes/links is the most important new feature produced by the hybridisation between radio and SNS. A radio programme’s network of friends/fans on SNS represents its specific social capital (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992). While the wider (and invisible) radio public, as charted by audience rating companies, still constitutes the programme’s economic capital, the more restricted public of social media should in my view be considered the real social capital of a programme, a tangible and visible capital. If we consider the networked public that forms around a radio programme its bridging social capital, we can expect this listener based network to produce, if not emotional and substantive support, then at least a certain amount of benefits in terms of news, tastes, information retrieval, cultural trends, comments and reviews. If we observe the SNS of the most popular radio programmes we will realize that this is already taking place: listeners anticipate/ continue on SNS a discussion on the themes introduced by the radio show, adding comments, contents, links, references, quotations, suggestions. Moreover, the personal information and the public wall posts in the listeners’ SNS profiles can help radio producers to better understand who is hiding behind a comment or link, helping them to assess the reputation of the listeners/producers and consequently decide if they can trust them or not. The reputation (and trustability) of each single listener belonging to the network of a radio programme contributes to the general reputation of that specific networked public, and, due to the transitive property, it constitues the reputational capital of that radio programme. Since on this stage radio producers and listeners can act at the same time as actors and audience, their reputation (both the producer’s and the the listener’s) is continuously being evaluated by the networked public. It is therefore in the radio producer’s interest to develop, nurture and take care of this reputational capital and to manage the establishment of a high quality and highly satisfied networked public. For radio makers, a wide network of friends/fans is of great importance for their future. Even if the fans network does not generate a tangible economic value like the radio audience already does, it nevertheless generates a great reputational capital. The message of the SNS public of a radio programme is the network itself, because this network is able to produce value. The value embedded in the networked public is not already convertibile into economic capital, but the crisis of traditional mass advertising will lead to a future increase and refining of tools for the capitalization of the wealth of networked publics linked to radio programmes and stations. Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  7. 7. Crisis of value of listening time-based radio markets average loss: -6% (Europe + USA) Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  8. 8. Crisis of value of attention economy The proof that the system of the economy of attention is increasingly in crisis can be found in the figures of advertising revenues earned by the big media institutions. Mediaset, for example, closed 2011 with -5.1% of advertising proceeds (at a national average of -4.2%), against a 26% increase in the supply for commercials on its networks (as estimated by Nielsen 2012). Increased advertising corresponds to lesser earnings, not only because the public is decreasing, but most of all because this public is losing value. Mainstream TV is dropping sharply (RAI and Mediaset together represented 89% of viewers in 2003, while today they are at 67%). Newspapers have lost 27% of their advertising revenues in the last 5 years, while periodicals have lost almost 40% (Nielsen 2012). The same crisis is being experienced by free-press newspapers and magazines: their public spends so little that it’s not worth advertising with them. The global economic crisis has certainly influenced this drop (whose trend continues to not be positive) but during the same period, investments in advertising on the Internet have almost doubled. This general crisis of the value of traditional media has to do with the general crisis of the value of the public of this media. The attention of millions of people who read newspapers, watch TV series and listen to radio programs every day has less value today than it once did. One minute of my attention is simply exchanged today at a lower price than it once was, because it is supposed that I do not have the purchasing power necessary to convert my attention into consumption. Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  9. 9. VALUE = measure of listening timeFrom an attention economy: Broadcasting era: attention time = value a new emerging paradigm new emerging tools of assessing listeners’ value to a reputation economy: Social network era: reputation = value VALUE = measure of general sentiment, engagement, appreciation rate, conversation rate, amplification rate, personal involvement Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  10. 10. broadcasting + social media attention + reputation = listeners value Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  11. 11. political outcomes - more productive publics - quality (reputation) of a public more important than quantity - Media have to take care of the quality of their public - publics can influence public spheres and discourses - publics can produce counter narratives - every one is a medium, every one has its own public to nurture economic outcomes- more value for niche contents- digital reputation of a public = digital reputation of a mediumrisksreputation wars; reputation corruption; privacy;non-transparent parameters of rating reputation Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  12. 12. Conclusion: The VALUE of a certain medium lies in the network of listeners that it is able to attract Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012
  13. 13. contacts ::: Academia ::: ::: Audio/Radio ::: Tiziano Bonini - IULM University of Milandomenica 16 settembre 2012