Diversity in the digital age

How the digital media age is changing; who controls own news and where it is coming from?

(Featured Image: AP/Josh Reynolds)

How does media ownership concentration affect the way we get our news? Will new online landscapes end up facing these same ownership issues? As we move into the new digital age, a new media landscape is developing; creating opportunities and potential for diversity in the Australian media industry. This is due to a decreasing concentration of media ownership and an increase in differing media platforms.

Government-owned media such as the ABC aim to provide journalism grounded in objectivity. In contrast, privately owned media corporations such as Fairfax and News Corp generally feature opinion based articles, often propagating bias towards the key stakeholder’s views.

‘Brexit’ coverage, BBC vs. the Daily Mail.

However,  journalism that is targeted towards pleasing stakeholders becomes particularly problematic when the same agenda is pushed across multiple platforms of mainstream publications. For example, in Australia News Corp and Fairfax dominate the ownership of media publications. The problem with this is that this doesn’t leave much room for coverage from a differing perspective.

‘Reach over 7 million Australians every day’ 

News Corp’s online home page

The Future of print, radio and televised networks is uncertain due to the rise of social media. Recent studies suggest that ‘more than 90% of consumers access the internet at least once a day and 61% use a smartphone or tablet to access online news’ (Fisher C. and Watkins J. 2016). Furthermore, ‘over half of Australians (52%) reported using online and social media as a source of news’ (Fisher C. and Watkins J. 2016)

Daily Mail Australia and the Guardian Australia, two UK owned entities are two examples of the market stepping up their online campaigns in recent years. The Guardian Australia increased its unique audience from 888 000 in 2012 to 2 685 000 in 2017 (Nielsen Digital Ratings, 2017). This increase of over 200% has led them to overtake media competitors such as The Australian and Yahoo news, who have failed to fully capitalise on social media and online trends. The Guardian and Daily Mail aren’t the only media outlets to successfully infiltrate Australia’s shores; online-centric outlets such as Vice, Buzz Feed and The Huffington Post have invested heavily into the new online industry.


(Nielsen Digital Ratings 2017)

Although new players in the Australian media market have generated large followings in recent time, Fairfax Media and News Corp continue to hold significant proportions of the online media market. Their two biggest online news outlets, news.com.au (News Corp) and smh.com.au (Fairfax) have almost 10 Million unique viewers between them (Nielsen Digital Ratings 2017).

Therefore, although the Australian media heavyweights will undoubtingly look towards expanding their online audiences over the coming years. The nature of the online world and the success of smaller media competitors in recent years suggests Australians will have access to a vibrant and diverse range of media, unlike anything we have ever had access to before. Whether or not this unregulated media machine will provide accurate and unbiased information is another question altogether.




APO, (2016). Viewed 30 Mar. 2017 <http://apo.org.au/files/Resource/media-reform-overview_0.pdf>

APH (2016). Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016 – Parliament of Australia. Viewed 30 Mar. 2017 <http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1516a/16bd111#_ftn35>

 Fisher, C. and Watkins, J. (2016). Australia. Digital News Report. Viewed 30 Mar. 2017 <http://www.digitalnewsreport.org/survey/2016/australia-2016/>


The 21st Century Public Sphere

Where is the 21st-century coffee shop discourse occurring?

In the 20th century, German Intellectual Jürgen Habermas likened the public sphere to a European Coffee House, a place where the bourgeoisie and working classes could gather to engage in discourse about the current social issues and needs of society (Habermas 1962)

Featured Image: (Papaspyropoulos, S. 2013)

Jürgen Habermas describes the functioning Public Sphere as a group “made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state”

(Habermas 1962)

So what is our public sphere in the 21st century? It is a meeting place unmediated, that allows us access whenever we desire and able to be accessed by the majority of the population. This public sphere has come through the medium of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and many other outlets allowing the public to voice their own personal opinions on the issues of the day.

The benefits of this all-inclusive conversation are that it allows a broad range of ideas from all genders, races and religions around the world allowing the users to publish their own journalism, advocacy pieces and opinion articles highlighting their own individual voices and ideas.

For this all-inclusive conversation to function correctly, censorship of the media or the internet must not be enforced on the citizens by the State. Reporters Without Borders latest 2016 World Press Freedom Index (RSF 2016), highlights the concerning number of countries still experiencing press censorship by the State.


Image: (RSF 2016)

Australia ranked 25th in the world with Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea facing the highest levels of press censorship.

(RSF 2016)

Even with these restrictions imposed, the power of the new age social sphere has been demonstrated recently with dramatic effect. In 2011, the Arab Spring gave birth to a new era of questioning once feared regimes with advocates for change and reform heading to social media to voice their opinions on the State. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Algeria and many other prominent Arab States were swept up in the dramatic protests with social media the outlet of choice for documenting the events to the world while they unfolded.

Use this link to gain an insight of what popular websites (such as Facebook) are banned in China today.  (Blockedinchina.net, 2017)

While it is contended how much of an effect social media had on causing the uprisings and protests due to the majority of the countries population not being connected to the internet. Using Egypt as an example, research showed that ‘84% of those who are online say they visit social networking sites for news about Egypt’s political situation’ (Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 2012).

Without social media, the voices of the Citizen during the Arab Spring would have been limited to State Censored Journalists and the State itself.


Image: (Getty Images, 2017)

With the It’s clear that this new medium of communication is one that will continue to develop over the years and hopefully become a more inclusive outlet capable of allowing controversial and important topics to be discussed around the world without fear of persecution.




Blockedinchina.net. (2017). Test if any website is Blocked in China in real-time .Viewed 30 Mar. 2017.<http://blockedinchina.net/&gt;

Brown, H., Guskin, E. and Mitchell, A. (2017). The Role of Social Media in the Arab Uprisings. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. Viewed 30 Mar. 2017.<http://www.journalism.org/2012/11/28/role-social-media-arab-uprisings/&gt;

Getty Images, (2011).Viewed 30 Mar. 2017. <http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1648245/images/o-SOCIAL-MEDIA-ARAB-SPRING-facebook.jpg&gt;

Habermas, J. (1962). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. 1st ed. Hoboken: Wiley.

Papaspyropoulos, S. (2013).Viewed 30 Mar. 2017.<https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyrospapaspyropoulos/11293370385/in/photolist-icXtyv-qbSzGo-dSk6ng-neetM8-4ptVGq-mX5qFZ-9sssSG-CFRfJS-9pXeu6-atea6s-e5iCmT-anqqfd-9Y2JCR-4H1oc8-aXZrMn-9Y2Khz-7w6XdU-7gRPxG-S5ye7z-2tx789-SAbaBY-qbpTD5-eN5EsS-6xYxWn-m83cRd-Ru3EPT-6xYy7M-j6Rv5-7SazeL-6tLGot-jFdntH-ScaL9Y-mXHgdh-5eYiQo-29AWjE-9Y5Cp9-RhtECQ-9Y2GVk-8TX1rQ-8vx1XK-9Y2Jjr-9vKtxM-9Y5C6Y-J9UBqd-aYDb7-4o3p99-m839w7-5SnyJQ-HJWk17-Tc6X8n&gt;

Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. (2017). Chapter 1. Views of Political Change.Viewed 30 Mar. 2017.<http://www.pewglobal.org/2011/04/25/chapter-1-views-of-political-change/&gt;

RSF. (2017). 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders.Viewed 30 Mar. 2017.<https://rsf.org/en/ranking&gt;




Fake news and articles you’re sure to agree with

The 21st century has given birth to a new relationship between the media and its audience. A new reality where the audience has become a crucial part of the new age media machine, becoming both a user and producer of content,a “produser” ,able to both produce and distribute information with relative ease on social media […]

The era of fake news and social media has presented itself as a challenging new world for journalism whereby articles are targeted towards a specific audience, sometimes even resulting in purposely misleading publications. Furthermore, the ease of publication and distribution of information has consequently resulted in anyone with an internet connection becoming a potential distributor of news.

Featured Image:  (Madalina 2013)

‘If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.’

(Barack Obama 2016)

Now what we share, like, retweet and interact with on social media has become a statement of who we are and where belong in the political spectrum. This online profile is used by social media sites to create an online experience designed for maximum interaction between the user and the platform.


(MIC Gadget, 2011)

Facebook’s news feed values highlight this, stating that their platform targets the information that you’re most likely to engage with in a positive manner with a bias towards the updates of your closest friends and family. This is not inherently a bad thing. However, if you do not have a diverse group of friends and family, with vastly differing political and moral views, you may be unconsciously forming a political bubble and feeding a confirmation bias on views you already agree with.

‘Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to – starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.’

(Facebook news feed values)  

While the recent Stanford study on Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election, in summary, concluded: ‘social media was not the most important source of election news, and even the most widely circulated fake news stories were seen by only a small fraction of Americans (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017).’

nintchdbpict0002830135911The findings also showed that “of the known false news stories that appeared in the three months before the election, those favouring Trump were shared a total of 30 million times on Facebook, while those favouring Clinton were shared eight million times. (Allcott and Gentzkow 2017) While, some might regard these figures as small, in narrow elections these numbers could have the chance to make or break an election campaign.

(Daily Headlines, 2016)

Recent evidence from the Pew Research Center suggests that ’62 percent of U.S. adults get news on social media’ (Gottfried and Shearer 2016). There is no doubt that social media is becoming a common source for up to date news and information on world events. 

’62 percent of U.S. adults get news on social media’

Pew Research Center (Gottfried and Shearer 2016)

Therefore, with the prevalence of fake news and biases created for our own comfort, it is essential for organisations such as Facebook to ensure it monitors these potential concerns over the coming years. However, the individual user also needs to raise the question of what and where they are receiving their information from.

Meanwhile, you can check out Politecho plugin for an insight into your own social network bubble to see how your family and friends influence what you see and interact with on Facebook.




Allcott, H. and Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election.Viewed 15 Mar. 2017 <https://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/fakenews.pdf>

Daily Headlines. (2016). Did The Pope Shock The World By Endorsing Donald Trump For President. Viewed 15 Mar. 2017 <http://dailyheadlines.net/2016/10/did-the-pope-shock-the-world-by-endorsing-donald-trump-for-president/>

Facebook News Feed. News Feed Values. Viewed 15 Mar. 2017 <https://newsfeed.fb.com/values/>