So this is an attempt to create an exemplar for a Paper 2 response.
The planning method:
- Each section will include a variation on the word “impact”.
- It is divided up into three sections (to answer the three sections – “production, distribution and consumption” – that are outlined in the question.
- Every section includes detailed examples from the two CSPs.
- Whenever possible subject specific terminology is used.
- Whenever possible the response will name a theory or media theorist to show study.
To what extent have digitally convergent media platforms had an impact on the production, distribution and consumption of media products?
Refer to The Voice and Teen Vogue to support your answer (25marks).
Digital convergence is a concept which has been shaped by Henry Jenkins. His “black box” model foresaw that increasing connectivity and processing power would allow audiences to access a wide range of media forms through one device (prophesying the PC, tablet or smartphone nature of current platforms). The production of online magazines such as Teen Vogue and The Voice has been impacted by convergence in the way that they can encompass a wide range of media forms, making them hybrid products. A good example of this is the way that Teen Vogue embeds video into its pages and a good example of feature is the light-hearted “Best friend tag between Zendaya and Zink Coleman” video embedded into an entertainment page which talks about Daniel Radcliffe’s plans for the Harry Potter character, and a T.V. reboot. The Voice clearly makes less effective use of the variety of possibilities however it does have its own YouTube channel and recent interviews with athletes after the Aviva Athletics Grand Prix are hyperlinked to news-pages on the site.
The production of content has been impacted by convergence in the way that producers can continually update their products to feed the appetite for a rolling-cycle of information. Teen Vogue’s mosaic of “Trending Stories” showcases this ability and links it to the dynamic world of social media. The Voice has a carousel box highlighting the editor’s “pick of the day” however the site is quite dated and such an approach only serves to show the audience that it is less responsive than newer products such as Teen Vogue.
The distribution of products on digitally convergent media platforms is hugely different from analogue products. Chris Anderson’s “long tail” theory of internet-enabled business explains that once product is available to consumers via the internet, and is backed up by effective search-engines, no audience is too small, or too niche, for producers. The Voice is therefore able to reach its minority black-British audience in a way that would be considerably more difficult utilising the previous newspaper model of local newsagents (a situation that the founder of the print newspaper, Val Mcalla, always struggled with). Such a model requires a concentration of consumers to make it economically viable for distribution to be worthwhile. Online a solitary reader can live in a small town and receive the product. Similarly the niche audience for Teen Vogue (American teenage girls) is made accessible to the distributors in the move online (facilitated by the adoption of smartphones by the audience – standing at 95% of U.S. teenagers in 2018). The reduction in production and distribution costs, made possible by the move online, allowed Elaine Welteroth, the first online editor, to re-focus the magazine onto what she had identified as an emerging audience (who were looking for identity-based news and politics rather than just fashion and beauty) who were able to find the product in a post-Google web environment and share it with others by using other Web 2.0 platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. In this way the online platform products reduce their exposure to financial risk as outlined by Hesmondhalgh.
The consumption of products such as Teen Vogue and The Voice has been impacted by the flexibility of new technology. What convergence offers the audience is the chance to bounce between forms in an interactive way and feeds into the audience desire to choose how they consume products. Teen Vogue is exceptionally effective in the way that it offers choice. A recent headline article about being an ally to survivors of gun violence included hyperlinks to add information and an embedded video where readers tried Alexandria Ocasio Ortez’s skincare routine as a way of lightening the tone (on what could be a dark, negative and upsetting page otherwise). Similarly an article in The Voice (which reported on Ant and Dec’s past use of blackface on ITV) includes a link-button to a Windrush 70 page which includes both celebrations and investigative stories concerning British-Caribbean immigration. What both digital platforms also offer is the ability for audiences to tailor their consumption according to their tastes. The use of sections (such as “Faith” and “Lifestyle” in The Voice or “Entertainment”, “Wellness” or “Summit” – which links to a TED-style event page on Teen Vogue) allows the consumer to vary the sort of stories, and so the experience that they have. Teen Vogue can be consumed in a very engaged and political way or in a very fashion-forward and entertainment-heavy way, as desired by the consumer.