OXFORD MEDIA SOCIETY
Later this week, we’re excited to host a panel from the Reuters Institute, discussing media trends and the future of journalism. With the year already more than a third complete, it’s been interesting reading through the Reuters Institute’s predictions for 2023. Two in particular stuck out to me as (perhaps unsurprisingly) accurate, especially in light of two recent events in the media industry: that media outlets would struggle to financially sustain themselves, and that first-generation social media platforms would continue to stagnate. As a warning, this week’s recommended reading will contain some buzzkills, but if you want something more fun, I’ve also included a lovely article about all the different kinds of tofu in China.
The first important event is that earlier in April, Buzzfeed News announced it would be shut down after years of financial difficulties. Though it’s easy to scoff at Buzzfeed News by virtue of its first name, it has in fact had a key role in creating the current media landscape. Not only did it break crucial stories like the infamous Steele dossier, which pointed to possible collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian state, it also pioneered much of what made online news possible — clickable headlines, reporting on misinformation, data-driven journalism, and more. As one of the first newsdesks that took the internet seriously, as the internet became more serious, it too became an important voice — until now, that is.
At the same time, another platform that has become irreplaceable in our contemporary media landscape — Twitter — seems to be breaking down as well. I won’t get into too much detail, because explaining Twitter drama always feels like describing an Alice in Wonderland fanfic to a medieval farmer, but it’s worth noting that despite its obvious stupidity and weirdness, Twitter has been an important space for public discourse, especially amongst journalists and politicians. Both Buzzfeed News and Twitter are key parts of the online infrastructure that now make up our culture. Now both are collapsing under the pressure of either a lack of investors or the presence of a single monomaniacal investor.
Both of these decidedly online events reminded me of a brilliantly written article by Josiah Gogarty for The New Statesman, about how nothing in London feels cool anymore. Gogarty calls this ‘Claphamisation’, after the neighbourhood in London known for ‘graduates with dependable jobs and straightforward tastes.’ That under financial pressure, nothing interesting can survive, and all of that middle-space where cultural experiments would happen are becoming gentrified.
Though this might seem completely unrelated to Buzzfeed News and Twitter, the fundamental factors are the same. Clapham in the past several decades has undergone a series of ‘renovations’ that has increasingly eliminated public spaces in favour of plush, private commercial and residential areas. Most recently, plans were announced to ‘regenerate’ another public park with retirement homes. Believe it or not, parks and abandoned warehouses for weird house music are also key parts of the cultural infrastructure that makes life interesting and cool. The result is the Claphamisation of everything, both online and offline. Things will hobble on — Twitter won’t disappear anytime soon, and there will still be that local café on the corner of your street — but whatever remains will certainly feel less human.
Reuters Institute: ‘Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2023’
The Atlantic: ‘The Internet of the 2010s Ended Today’
The New York Times: ‘What Was Twitter, Anyway?’
The New Statesman: ‘Everything is Clapham now’
… and for something less depressing:
Asterisk Magazine: ‘America Doesn’t Know Tofu’