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Friday, 06/13/03

I went out of my way to praise Clay Shirky a few weeks back, even putting him in a category with the unearthly Malcolm Gladwell, and then Shirky went and wrote a piece about the FCC's recent media consolidation giveaway that was just completely daft.

I was so used to seeing Shirky say uniformly clever things (and I'm so attached to the pick-any-two phenomenon, which seems to pop up in nature like Fibonacci numbers), that it took me several days to spot the barmy fraudulence of his equation of broadcast ratings with weblog mindshare.

CNN and Fox News fight what appears to be an epic battle over a difference in audience size that amounts to about 3% of Felicity's viewership, and Felicity got cancelled. Relative numbers aside, the point of their stupid squabble is that people who watch one channel generally don't watch the other.

It's unsupportable, perhaps unforgivable, to suggest that just because weblog readership organizes itself into power-law distributions, readers of Kottke or Reynolds limit themselves to one blog per day like bloody dittoheads. Christ, there's a whole new category of software catering to people who read so much that their web browsers were left gasping in a ditch.

It's also ridiculous to pretend, as only Rupert Murdoch and Clay Shirky even bothered to try, that the medium by which most Americans learn about the world is threatened by, or worth comparing to, a rank upstart self-selected by people who like to read. At least I understand what Murdoch has to gain by the assertion.

I feel bad that I didn't get around to making this point before John Adams, who puts the core idea more succinctly: "Concentration of large audiences is not the issue per se, but barriers to entry and the inability of the new to displace the old." Word. 09:22AM «


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