Strange lineup: The gentrification of the web

I did a lot this weekend. I watched the season finale of “12 Monkeys” (just as whacky as ever), the last three episodes of “Broadchurch” (just as dramatic as ever) and the last three episodes of “Helix” (just as…whacky and dramatic as ever). Even the premiere of “Wayward Pines” and the season premiere of “Penny Dreadful.” Wow. I didn’t do much this weekend, did I?

Well, it was all streaming content; and a couple of weeks ago, I was considering the individualization of entertainment. I ended up wondering if, as entertainment has become more individualized, do we actually have more choice? Perhaps not. Along with the individualization of entertainment, particularly online, we’re also seeing a gentrification of the Internet: entertainment content online becoming nicely produced, but somewhat similar to the entertainment that can be found anywhere else. Basically, as the nicer stuff becomes more available, the weirder stuff becomes harder to find. It’s the gentrification of entertainment on a digital level.

Not too long ago, Facebook, Snapchat and other streaming services were looking for establishing investors to help produce video content. It’s not an unfamiliar story, going back to YouTube establishing studios to help its stay-at-home creators produce content. The difference here was that Snapchat and the like were looking at big boys for investment: Comcast Corp. Time Warner Inc. Big Four dollars to produce Big Four content.

Take a look at the YouTube homepage. As of this writing–and free of any kind of cookies or signed in accounts–the suggested videos run from the MOVIECLIPS channel, Call of Duty, Jimmy Fallon, Taylor Swift’s VEVO… When you get to the #PopularOnYouTube, half the videos are from established producers like Mariah Carey, ABCNews and, interestingly enough, The White House. Not that I have anything against these videos or the Big Four or Jimmy Fallon. But what they all seem to be, or the noticeable majority of them seem to be, is professional videos made by media companies. And I don’t think that was ever the point.

Web 2.0 (is it still called that? Was it ever really called that?) was supposed to allow Internet users to come viable Internet creators, but that dream appears to have gotten stalled somewhere along the way. Re-tweet, re-post and re-blog mechanics on social media platforms, coupled with the increasing presence of multimedia companies on said platforms, means that there’s, not less room, but less visibility and fewer digital resources for the amateur content creator.

The web used to be a huge meadow, untouched by winter, where everything, even the bizarre and unwieldy, was on display; now, it is a diminishing road, where only the slickest and loudest survive, a narrow bottleneck of the most recent week of ads, skits and memes. I wouldn’t mind so much except most of those skits don’t look like they’re made in the living rooms of guys like me anymore.


2 thoughts on “Strange lineup: The gentrification of the web

  1. You’ve voiced a thought that had once been a wisp in my head. I do find this disheartening, but as an incorrigible optimist, there is a light to it: Amidst the samey bore, the bizarre and unwieldy flashes brighter. I am quite keen on the thrill of discovery!

    Now, to balance the optimism, I shall be cynical. We’re the un-lazy ones who’d go out of our way to find it, and revel in what we’ve found. I think, for most, the polished front-page offerings may just be welcome, mindless clicks to pass the time.


    1. Well, I’m not a big fan of the monkeys-typewriters-“Hamlet” theory, but perhaps there being so many clicks means there’s always the off chance some of them will be brilliant.


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