When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

This post was written for a uni assignment and I liked it a lot, so I have republished here:

Terry Flew and others have argued that old-world global media companies such as News Corporation, Disney and Time Warner are intrinsically part of, even drivers of, globalisation processes1. They have used media companies that primarily trade in traditional media (such as television, printed newspapers, radio broadcasts and outdoor advertising) to make complex arguments about the infiltration of globalisation processes by the media in general and portray globalisation as a series of processes most easily understood through the prism of the internationalisation of such companies and their media products.

However, these arguments seem to ignore the very existence of prominent media companies that have only come into existence because of globalising influences. Corporations such as Google and Facebook would not exist if not for the internet, which itself is a major characteristic of the era of globalisation. To establish whether Google is indeed a media company, we must only look to their self-proclaimed quest, which is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”2. By organising “the world’s information” and disseminating it, the company is also mediating that information. If we take a media organisation as being one that mediates and disseminates information across vast communication networks, Google is one of the purest examples.

Furthermore, as well as organising and sharing existing information, Google actively contributes to information production. It’s video-sharing site YouTube is probably the most obvious example of this, but Blogger and the Google News services are others. While Google News repackages information produced by others, the ways it is viewed and organised via Google properties demonstrates a productive process. Similarly, Facebook is predicated around creating and sharing information across user networks. Primarily, the information shared on Facebook and many other social networks is relatively personal in nature and intended for a relatively limited audience (the very public nature of such disclosures is a matter for another blog). Nonetheless, it is created by users (who are effectively creating content on behalf of the corporation) and disseminated by the existing structures of the network.

In any discussion of media corporations and globalisation, it is foolish to ignore the very real impact of very large media3 companies that are, by their nature, products of globalisation and clearly contribute a significant amount of media content to the internet.

  1. Flew, T. 2007, ‘Globalization and global media corporations’, in Understanding Global Media, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp66-97. []
  2. Google, 2010, Corporate information, accessed online 01/09/10, available: http://www.google.com.au/intl/en/corporate []
  3. Google is larger than NewsCorp, as shown in respective (linked) Google finance figures for the two []