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Abstract

Alternative media, which have historically been created in explicit opposition to the mainstream, are increasingly drawing from mainstream practices to gain visibility in a crowded media market. However, the nascent field of alternative (or community) media scholarship has not fully embraced the intrusion of mainstream practices nor has scholarship added meaningfully to the debates surrounding future growth possibilities of alternative media within this competitive framework. The paper will apply previous hypotheses and research from the field of alternative media scholarship to a small sample of alternative blogs in New Zealand. The methodological aspects of producing these blogs and their resulting content will be explored against present research in an effort to conceptualize future media formats for the alternative press.
Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, vol.5 - nº1 (2011), 187-214 1646-5954/ERC123483/2011 187
The Future of Alternative Media?
Linda Jean Kenix*
*University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Abstract
Alternative media, which have historically been created in explicit opposition to the mainstream, are
increasingly drawing from mainstream practices to gain visibility in a crowded media market. However,
the nascent field of alternative (or community) media scholarship has not fully embraced the intrusion of
mainstream practices nor has scholarship added meaningfully to the debates surrounding future growth
possibilities of alternative media within this competitive framework. The paper will apply previous
hypotheses and research from the field of alternative media scholarship to a small sample of alternative
blogs in New Zealand. The methodological aspects of producing these blogs and their resulting content
will be explored against present research in an effort to conceptualize future media formats for the
alternative press.
Keywords: alternative media
Mainstream media are paradoxically both growing and shrinking. The pervasiveness and visibility of
mainstream media have exploded. Mainstream media can be found in almost every social and private
setting within the developed world. However, the number of large, mainstream media outlets is also
continually declining. This reduction is due to either consolidation within a larger, parent corporation or
simply closure due to a lack of revenue. This frenzied mix of conglomeration and bankruptcies has led
several mainstream media outlets to draw heavily from what was once considered strictly alternative media.
Blogging in particular has been heralded as a potential challenge – and possible support – to mainstream
media newsgathering. Alternative media, such as current affairs or news blogs, have grown exponentially
over the last thirty years. Much of this astronomical rise is due to the expansion of the Internet.
The Internet has allowed for a much wider range of opinions and facts to be seen and heard. This range
obviously includes positions that have been traditionally outside of mainstream media. Alternative media
are often created in “explicit opposition” (Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007, p. 1) to mainstream media. Alternative
media, in fact, can be defined by their level of subversion from the mainstream (Albert, 2006b; Downing,
2001). This subversion is rooted in a strong desire for societal change from the status quo perpetuated by
mainstream media. When one considers communication asthe creative making of a social order
(Hamilton, 2000, p. 361), then the importance of alternative media is clear. Social relations are created,
confirmed and exercised within communication processes. Relationships are created and societal
Copyright © 2011 (Linda Jean Kenix). Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial No Derivatives
(by-nc-nd). Available at http://obs.obercom.pt.
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188
boundaries are laid. Mutual understandings begin through effective communication. Such interconnected
development is absolutely central to a thriving social network. The importance of media and communication
to such a society can not be understated (Carey, 1989).
A thorough examination of potential challenges to future alternative media is needed precisely because
alternative media are so central to democracy. This paper will draw upon present research to suggest
several possible conceptualizations of the future for alternative media. This work will apply various
hypotheses and research to a small sample of popular New Zealand blogs in order to gauge the present
state of alternative media. It is suggested that alternative media will need to rely on cohesive portals of
information and visual material for future success. They will be increasingly politically subversive with very
few differences between consumers and producers. Alternative media will place a greater emphasis on local
news and integrate social networking into every story. This research also suggests that unique, small-scale
funding opportunities will predominate the future of alternative media. Producers of alternative media will
see a further flattening of responsibilities but there will also be reduced thresholds for success.
The Present Media Landscape
Mainstream media are paradoxically both growing and shrinking. The pervasiveness and visibility of
mainstream media has exploded, “driven primarily by the needs and pressures exerted by an ever-
expanding, globally triumphant capitalist economy” (Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007, p. 4). Large corporate
entities have amassed networked film, radio, newspaper and magazine businesses that can reach every
human being in the developed world. Yet, while mainstream media have grown in visibility and potential
reach, they have also reduced in number and in readership. Newspaper revenue in the United States fell
19.26 percent for the third quarter of 2008. This drop was met with a 30.85 percent decrease in classified
advertising in American newspapers (Riley, 2008). In Britain, fifty-two publications folded in the last year –
most of which were local newspapers owned by Trinity Mirror (Greenslade, 2009). Such declines have
meant a constant threat of redundancy within the mainstream media industry. Very few cities across the
globe can boast more than one major daily newspaper. The 150-year-old newspaper, Rocky Mountain
News, recently was closed by the E.W. Scripps Company, who cited multi-million dollar annual losses
(DeBruin, 2009). The threat of replacing the relatively few remaining city newspapers with a larger regional
paper remains omnipresent in media discussions.
The reduction of newsrooms across the globe is due to a lack of profits within the news industry – at least
at the levels expected by the multinational, conglomerated corporations that own mainstream media. News
editors reporting back to disgruntled shareholders must find cost-cutting measures somewhere within the
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industry and that typically comes in the form of job losses. Such employment decisions are made that much
easier when new technological advances are introduced that can increase efficiency and productivity.
Within the United States, media productivity, or output per hour, increased by 21 percent from 1997 until
2006, while the number of employees within the field of print media, dropped to 615,000 from 815,00
during that same time period. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics surmised that computerization and the
expanding use of the Internet has eliminated many of these media jobs (U.S. Department of Labor, 2008).
As Fuchs (2009) argues, “there is an economic interest in the substitution of living labour by technology to
decrease the investment and reproduction costs of capital and its turnover time, which in the ideal case
increases profit” (p. 382). The present conglomeration within the media industries is itself representative of
an essential component of capitalism (Knoche, 2007).
This frenzied conglomeration has led several mainstream media outlets to draw heavily from what was
once considered strictly alternative media. Independent media are no longer completely uncontaminated
with capitalist funding and the overlap between mainstream and independent media content is shifting.
This is perhaps most readily seen in documentary filmmaking. Radical documentaries continue to gain
popularity in commercial theatres. Michael Moore, an ardent critic of mainstream capitalism became the
first feature-length documentary artist to earn more than $100 million in box office theatre receipts for a
single film (Box Office Mojo, 2009). In fact, six of the top ten documentaries made since 1982 could all be
labelled as progressive critiques on capitalism in some form (
Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, An Inconvenient Truth,
Bowling for Columbine, Religulous
, and
Super Size Me
). Yet, it is still clear that the interrelationships found
between mainstream production houses and radical content providers remain uneasy. In 2004, a widely-
reported example of such tension occurred when the Walt Disney Company blocked its Miramax division
form distributing
Fahrenheit 9/11
(Rutenberg, 2004).
In relation to news, there are examples of mainstream media drawing content from alternative news
sources. Current event blogs have been found to be extremely influential in political reporting (Bahnisch,
2006; Mayfield, 2004; Trammell, 2006). Mainstream news coverage of issues has, at times, been driven by
political news blogs. For example, the frenetic mainstream media coverage of several high-level
resignations, such as news executive Eason Jordan from CNN (Seeyle, 2005), Senator Trent Lott from the
Senate Majority Leadership position (Bowman & Willis, 2003), and Dan Rather from the CBS news anchor
desk (Glaser, 2004), were driven by alternative political blogs.
Drawing from these examples and countless others, blogging has been heralded as the beginning of the
end of journalism’s sovereign reign (Rosen, 2005). This new alternative form of “amateur journalism”
(Lasica, 2003) has been argued as the long-awaited answer to journalism’s longstanding weaknesses
(Regan, 2003). Yet, mainstream media are still the dominant means of information dissemination in the
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world, but most of this content is now increasingly accessed online. Newspaper advertising revenue has
plummeted while revenues from Internet advertising continue to rise. The Advertising Standards Authority
reported that advertising revenue across all mainstream media (defined as newspapers, television, radio,
magazines, outdoor, cinema, addressed mail, unaddressed mail and interactive media) in New Zealand
dropped from $2.335 billion in 2007 to $2.317 billion in 2008 (Advertising Standards Authority, 2009).
However, Internet advertising rose almost 43 percent from $135 million in 2007 to $193 million in 2008.
Most individuals still get their information from mainstream media even as the format of delivery and the
number of mainstream outlets are both changing. The most popular websites overall continue to be large,
corporate search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Baidu in China, Windows Live) or sites dedicated to social
networking, such as Facebook. But, the BBC, CNN and The New York Times still remain top news sources
online (Alexa, 2009). Given that most people continue to draw their information from mainstream news,
whether online or off-line, there are persistent and important questions as to the quality of information that
citizens receive from mainstream media. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, an organization that was
created in the United States, was one of the first large-scale independent media that aimed to examine and
critique mainstream media as well as support independent media. That organization recently argued that
over just the past few years, mainstream media were directly responsible for leading Americans into “an
aggressive war with evidence based on lies, overlooking an asset bubble whose predictable deflation
devastated our economy, (and) failing to raise alarms about the erosion of key civil liberties” (Naureckas,
2009).
These perspectives echo Herman and Chomsky’s (1988), landmark
Manufacturing Consent,
which argued
that American media conform to a propaganda model whose “societal purpose” is to “inculcate and defend
the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the
state.” Perhaps because of such growing concern surrounding mainstream media, alternative media have
grown exponentially over the last thirty years – particularly on the Internet. Raymond Williams argued that
new media technologies could be used “for purposes quite different from those of the existing social order”
(Williams, 1974, p. 136) and indeed, alternative media have exploited new media technologies with an aim
to radically subvert the ““hierarchy of access” (Glasgow University Media Group, 1976). The development
and growth of alternative media continued upon a relatively stable trajectory until the invention of the
Internet, which led to an alternative media explosion.
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Alternative Media
Defining alternative media has been a problematic exercise for academics. Some have argued that, in
essence, those who say they are alternative media simply are alternative media (Albert, 2006b). In defining
themselves as alternative, they actually create the parameters of what alternative media eventually look
like. Downing (2001) has argued that the term is actually “oxymoronic” (p. ix) given that everything is an
alternative to something else in the world. Others have argued that the word alternative places too much
legitimacy on the mainstream media by denoting somewhat of a secondary stature to a far more central –
and therefore more important – mainstream press (Braden, 2007). Some prefer labels such as
‘independent’ media, others believe that ‘radical’ media is a much more apt description (Downing, 2001).
Still other researchers and practitioners have called for alternative media to be labelled as ‘activist’ or
‘citizens’ media, or possible ‘tactical’ or ‘autonomous’ media. Related terms are ‘participatory’ or
‘community’ media. Each of these conceptualizations attempts to capture what is unique about media that
exists outside of corporate entities and each puts a unique emphasis on a different facet of alternative
media.
Some have argued that alternative media should be defined according to their scale in the marketplace of
ideas (Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007). Alternative media are smaller than mainstream media. They invite
participation in the creation of content and reciprocal communication. They are often free of some of the
bureaucratic processes or commercial responsibilities that constrain mainstream media. They are
independent of other social institutions (Albert, 2006b).
Pulling away from organizational influences, other scholars urge that definitions of alternative media must
stress the ideological opposition or challenge to mainstream media. Alternative media are created in
“explicit opposition” (Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007, p. 1) to mainstream media. Whatever the label, be it
‘radical’ or ‘alternative,’ some researchers argue that it should be defined by its level of subversion from the
mainstream (Albert, 2006b; Downing, 2001). Accordingly, an often cited definition of alternative media,
suggests that it “challenges, at least implicitly, actual concentrations of media power” (Curran & Couldry,
2003, p. 7). Couldry (2003) argues that these challenges are intrinsic to the purpose of alternative media
given that almost all of us are outside of mainstream media. One definition of alternative media puts that
point of exclusion at the centre of its defined meaning: alternative media are best conceptualised as simply
the media “produced by the socially, culturally and politically excluded” (Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007, p. 5).
Atton (2004), a leading scholar in the field of alternative media research, offers the following definition of
alternative media: it is a “range of media projects, interventions and networks that work against, or seek to
develop different forms of, the dominant, expected (and broadly accepted) ways of ‘doing’ media” (p. ix).
This is a far-reaching definition that allows for an expansive assortment of expression. As other research in
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this area will clearly demonstrate, alternative media are not simply magazines, newspapers and radio
stations. Atton (2004) understands this and incorporates such diversity into his definition. He goes further
to argue that alternative media should be fundamentally grounded in the cultural forms of an independent
media outlet and also possess some, if not all, of the following attributes: rely upon modern, evolving
technology; de-professionalized organizational norms and roles; horizontal communication patterns; cultural
or political radical content; compelling aesthetic form; innovative and independent distribution practices
(Atton, 2002). In keeping with a more open and fluid definitional framework, Dowmunt and Coyer (2007)
write that alternative media should be defined as generally on a smaller scale, “more accessible and
participatory, and less constrained by bureaucracy or commercial interests than the mainstream media and
often in some way in explicit opposition to them” (p. 1). Such a loose framework allows for a wider and
more comprehensive range of analysis.
When one considers communication as “the creative making of a social order” (Hamilton, 2000, p. 361),
then the importance of alternative media is clear. Social relations are created, confirmed and exercised
within communication processes. Relationships are created and societal boundaries are laid. Mutual
understandings begin through effective communication. Such interconnected development is absolutely
central to a thriving social network. The importance of media and communication to such a society can not
be understated (Carey, 1989). With so much at stake, alternative media is fundamental to the “articulation
of a social order different from and often opposed to the dominant” (Hamilton, 2000, p. 362). If scholars
and practitioners shift their focus away from media, and toward communication (Sparks, 1993), then the
potential strengths of alternative media become obvious.
It is essential, however, that we don’t conceptualise the division between alternative and mainstream
media as a mutually exclusive binary. Certainly, media outlets can possess some of the attributes outlined
by Atton (2004), but also have attributes that better define them as mainstream. It is important that these
definitions are not fixed, and that scholars are cognizant of the inherent subjective flexibilities within
modern culture. What defines a media as alternative within a particular moment of culture and time, might
be labelled mainstream within a different cultural time and place (Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007).
The pervasiveness of mainstream media has led to some practical doubts that alternative media can ever
be truly autonomous, given that they are intrinsically far less powerful. However, alternative media thrive
when born out of very individualistic, unique political and cultural events and issues. Many alternative
media can be short-lived given a lack of advertising support, but when called upon, alternative media serve
an interdependent function with social movements in pushing social change. They do not exist in a vacuum.
They are always “media plus organisation" (Stoney, 2005).This places alternative media within a very
specific space and time within culture. They exist within that context to the degree that each definition of
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alternative media, and indeed each example of alternative media, is also a unique theory of political change
(Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007). Alternative media are intrinsically part of the process of social change (Albert,
2006b).
As part of that process, alternative media tend to exist within two organizational frameworks: participatory
or hierarchical. Mainstream media operate almost exclusively within the later category, but alternative
media have also co-opted this professionalised format as well. When an organization operates under a
passive model of instruction, the “agents of resistance,” or the actual receivers of the media message, can
be artificially distanced from those who are “directing them” (Atton, 2002, p. 103). This prescriptive method
of alternative media communication is evident within modern forms of alternative media and can best be
explained by the mass culture approach to alternative communication. Through professionalised norms and
processes, it is far more likely toreach a more substantial number of people and, therefore, be more
effective. However, readers can also feel rather discouraged and disconnected from those who dictate
behavior from an elite and hierarchical position.
Yet, these elite, movement intellectuals can also help to “articulate the knowledge interests and cognitive
identity of social movements” (Eyerman & Jamison, 1995, p. 450). They serve an ideological ‘point person’
for members to connect with on a personal level. When such a person emerges from within the social
movement itself, then they become more of a “facilitator, interpreter, and synthesiser, rather than
ideological leader” (Eyerman & Jamison, 1991, p. 116).
There can also be a lateral form of organization and communication that includes “multiple experiences and
concerns” (Downing, 1984, p. 19) that is in direct opposition to the mass culture approach. This model of
alternative media aims to create an alternate “value system” (Rau, 1994, p. 13) from a community of
engaged participants. Eyerman and Jamison (1991) call this process of identity creation within a unified
membership, ‘knowledge production.’ In his examination of the alternative publications,
Green Anarchist
and
Do or Die
, Atton (2002) found that the interspaced writing from movement intellectuals and reader-
writers on the same page, “offers a challenge to intellectual discourse as well as the opportunity to discuss
the ideas in that discourse to an extent unknown in the mainstream media” (Atton, 2002, p. 111).
More voices within alternative media implicitly democratises the content. It removes the “hierarchy of
access” (Glasgow University Media Group, 1976) that is endemic to mainstream media reporting processes.
Alternative media that welcome a diverse range of input are “transformed into an egalitarian, devolved
communicational tool for theory and for action” (Atton, 2002, p. 111). This input can range from unsolicited
letters or writings or videoclips that are selected and included within an alternative publication. Egalitarian
input can also be actively solicited on the part of the alternative media outlet in the form of ‘native
reporting.’
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The concept of native reporting, principally seen in alternative media, emerged from the mainstream press.
Robert Chesshyre, traditionally a journalist for British papers, such as
The Guardian, The Times,
and
The
Daily Telegraph,
wrote that when he first came home to the United Kingdom after working as a
correspondent for the
Observer
in Washington, D.C., he “had to learn again the native idiom” (Chesshyre,
1987, p. 13). Embedded within such a comment is that there is a localness embedded within everything we
do. A sense of familiarity exists within textual or visual language that places us within a geographic location.
We understand this language because we contribute to its creation. This is one of the central arguments
toward including readers/writers as contributors to alternative media. Otherwise, the creators of content
that might be intended as emancipatory in nature, might actually be acting much more like colonists. This
moves the message creator away from the center of an engaged, active debate and informed discussion
toward a colonizing perspective whereby the creator is “placed either above or at the centre of things, yet
apart from them” (Spurr, 1993, p. 16). Native reporters can actually document their own reality and
become empowered by the process. This first-hand information also elevates the knowledge and discussion
within the larger community as it is more relevant and far more informed than an elitist perspective from
outside the close network of community relationships. This process also pulls “power away from the
mainstream back to the disenfranchised and marginalized groups that are the native reporter’s proper
community” (Atton, 2002, p. 115). Native reporting validates the identity of communities that are
increasingly overlooked in conglomerate, mainstream news. Yet, confusion and disorganization can also be
a potential negative influence of native reporting and egalitarian forms of organization. Ideological focus
can quickly be lost when there are a multitude of inputs all sharing attention (McKay, 1998).
As this review illustrates, simply defining what alternative media are has been a struggle in mainstream
media scholarship. Perhaps, understandably, very few theorists have contemplated how alternative media,
and in particular, alternative news media might function in the future. However, this is an essential
question if media scholarship is to continue advancing toward a more holistic understanding of media
structure and practice, given the increasing role alternative media will have in the media landscape of the
future.
Methodological Framework
This research is exploratory but does rely upon the previous work done by leaders in the study of
alternative media, such as Atton, Couldry and Downing. This research attempts to build a new, conceptual
matrix that might better examine possible future directions of alternative news media. In line with the
previous work of Gamson (1992), this is a deductive approach, which first begins with a loose,
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preconceived idea of the elements that may exist and then slowly proceeds in an attempt to reveal further
information that might not have been considered. These studies can be difficult to replicate and are quite
labour intensive (Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000). However, they might also allow for a deeper level of
analysis and understanding.
In hypothesizing future directions for alternative media, this research will juxtapose present predictions
with the ten most widely read alternative news media blogs in New Zealand. These case studies will be
explored to better understand how blogs might already be advancing alternative media in New Zealand. A
New Zealand blog titled Tumeke! provides a list ranking of the local blogosphere, based on average daily
unique visits, incoming links as provided by Technorati “Authority,” the average number of posts per week
and the average number of comments posted per week (Tumeke!, 2009). The top ten blogs listed based on
August 2009 usage, were Kiwiblog, The Standard, Cactus Kate, Not PC, Red Alert, Public Address, Gotcha!,
Dim Post, No Minister and Frogblog. Public Address was also recently awarded as the Best Blog in the 2008
Net Guide People’s Choice Web Awards. These blogs were examined as a sample of the best, or most
popular, blog content in New Zealand. The blogs were checked every day over the course of one month.
Content was bookmarked and collated for evaluation at the end of the sample period.
Conceptualizing a Future Alternative Media
Cohesive Portals of Information
What alternative media might be or should be has been largely ignored within academia. Much scholarly
research has detailed how alternative media operate, particularly within the present modern, networked,
corporate media environment (Atton, 2006; Curran & Couldry, 2003). Any examination of what alternative
media could become has largely originated from professional sources. Albert (2006a), from the independent
Z Magazine
, argued that alternative media must be more nationalistic, with synergies across local outlets,
which facilitate national debates and yield a larger shared understanding. Within the United States, there
are thousands of alternative media publications but no cohesive uniting force bringing together all that
content and readership. Alternet is the rare example of what can be done when pulling across the
alternative media spectrum. It receives more than 3 million monthly visitors and more than 7.5 million
monthly page views (AlterNet, 2009). It is unlikely that these numbers represent unique users given that
this was not reported in the website material. However, even 3 million repeat viewers represent a relatively
significant amount. In comparison,
New York Times
, an extensive corporate news entity, generated 18.2
million monthly unique visitors to their
website (Kioskea, 2009). Alternet claims to combine original
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reporting with material from over 200 independent media sources, “including over 40 of the most
compelling and insightful blogs” (AlterNet, 2009).
Outside of the success of Alternet, alternative media still tend to exist without any real connection between
independent outlets. Alternet needs to be examined further as a model for future growth in alternative
media. As more and more websites proliferate the Internet, networked portals that offer obvious pathways
for content must continue to grow or most of this content will simply be overlooked. Successfully finding
information online is already dependent upon demographic factors such as education level (Hargittai, 2002)
and as more and more people flood the Internet for information, that information will simply need to be
easier to locate. Silos of information will not be able to withstand the onslaught of content or the continued
evolution of technologies. The cross pollination of the myriad technologies available are producing a
proliferation of content in multiple platforms. Navigational systems need to be developed to wind users
across the across these platforms to alternative media portals of information.
It is important to also consider that broad silos of information do not exist across all media. Radio is a
notable example of how progressive groups and organizations do share programming and ideas across
many different outlets. In the United States, Pacifica Radio Network distributes programming to stations
across the country. It is the oldest public radio network, with over 100 affiliated stations and five non-
commercial, independent listener-supported stations in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston, New York city and
Washington D.C. The success of radio may be due, in large part, to a lack of competition for funding, given
that radio stations across countries generally do not compete for listeners, however, it is still an important
organizational framework to consider for contemplating future alternative media development.
A united federation, as Albert (2006b) suggests, would serve as a repository for free content that could be
shared across alternative media outlets. The organization could facilitate mutual support alliances and also
serve as an agency for those creating content (Albert, 2006b). This central organization could help to direct
the growth of alternative media through targeted fundraising that could be dispersed across contributing
members. While this model of organization poses some interesting opportunities for smaller alternative
media outlets that might be struggling, its professionalised organization also poses fundamental challenges
to alternative media that may have been created in opposition to those very same organizational formats.
Many read alternative media “as an act of defiance, as a proclamation of alternativeness” (Atton, 2002, p.
128).
Yet, the convenience for users will likely supersede concerns about bureaucratic organizational tensions
within alternative media outlets. Within this sample, only Public Access served as a portal of information
drawing from a wide range of sources. Public Access describes themselves as a “community of New
Zealand-centric weblogs” (Public Address, 2009). The site draws from eleven bloggers that have some tie
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to New Zealand, whether that is in geographic location or in interest. There are also two contributing sites
that are open to rotating guest bloggers. Therefore, Public Address does serve as a portal for alternative
information, but it would be difficult to argue that this represents cohesion across a spectrum of alternative
voices. Certainly, one cannot put a number on how much contribution equals a cohesive portal of
information, but drawing upon the work of eleven contributors would likely not suffice. That being said,
Public Address is a consortium of different opinions, which is the framework for future success in alternative
media.
Political Subversions of Mainstream Content Across Platforms
‘Tactical’ media have explored the tension between alternative and mainstream through experimental
media that are not only art, journalism or political activism, but, rather, as some measure of all three
combined (Dowmunt & Coyer, 2007). Tactical media thrive on the Internet because the opportunities to
create content within this platform are open. Tactical media do not strive to be different from the
mainstream. Rather, they aim to utilize mainstream practices to actually become part of the mainstream
while simultaneously causing those who hold positions of power within society to reflect upon their own
practices. RTMark is an excellent example of tactical media. They are alleged to be behind the Barbie
Liberation Organization, which switched the voice boxes of GI Joe and Barbie in 1993 and then returned
them all back to the stores to be later bought by unsuspecting Christmas shoppers. RTMark has also been
tied to the controversy surrounding SimCopter, a computer game that had shirtless “himbos” (male bimbos)
and fluorescent nipples as landing lights secretly embedded into the game. They were behind vote-
auction.net, which purported to be “bringing democracy and capitalism closer together” and allowed people
the ability to sell their presidential vote to the highest bidder. All of these examples rely on satire to cause
reflection on the part of the viewer, but they all also use the practices within mainstream media to appear
plausible to mainstream audiences and are all explicitly political.
Reader attention to such disparate media across a multitude of platforms will be intensely concentrated –
particularly in media that are highly politicized. This well-defined political perspective will be fundamental to
the growth of future alternative media outlets. Consumers of media content can and will be able to get
factual evidence of events in seconds from almost any content producer. However, a trusted and well-
defined political perspective will be increasingly valuable to consumers inundated with informational choice.
These relatively few media outlets will be among a small number of ‘success stories’ in terms of mass
audiences. The platforms of information will be available across on-line and off-line technologies and
promoted simultaneously across multiple information outlets. MoveOn.org has already shown how a trusted
and well-defined political message can unite users off-line. The organization created an alternative
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distribution network for an anti-Bush Administration documentary that drew supporters into stranger’s
homes to watch the film. The organization happened on the Internet but the distribution of DVD’s was
through the postal service and the process of gathering individuals for the movie occurred on email and the
telephone
Research has found that alternative media users draw extensively from mainstream media, even though
they severely under-report their personal mainstream media use (Rauch, 2007). They source mainstream
media so extensively to build their polemic stance about the righteousness of alternative media and the
injustices found in mainstream content. “The category mainstream, of course, represents something of a
myth or a straw man – but a necessary one for this community, since the superiority of alternative media
must presume the inferiority of another” (Rauch, 2007, p. 1008). The stance of superiority builds a sense of
identity within alternative media users who often feel aligned and largely removed from mainstream
discourse. However, such a divided stance also serves to further politicize and distance those that exist
within the ideology of one group from those that adhere to ideological tenets of another.
Politics will be central to how future successful alternative media sites identify themselves. Huffington Post,
a blog which ranks at almost double any other blog competitor in relation to their Technorati Authority
ranking (Technorati, 2009), generates content from a progressive perspective. Politics is one of Huffington
Post’s central category filters of content in organizing contributing information. Almost all of the blogs
sampled for this study generate content from a political perspective, although some do not state their
biases explicitly. Cactus Kate is the only non-political of the sites sampled here, describing herself only as a
Scorpio interested in “working, drinking, sleeping, waking up, going home, Money, sport, travel, and luxury
hotel chains.” However, her apolitical self-descriptions do not equate with her polemics on political issues
from a decidedly libertarian perspective. All other nine blogs sampled here stated their political ideologies
explicitly within the site and write content on political matters. The Internet will continue developing as the
central platform for alternative media and as content in general proliferates, sites that are more explicitly
political will gain popularity to attract the attention of a broad market in search of unique information.
Reduced Thresholds For Success
Hamilton (2000) has argued persuasively that alternative media must have extremely low barriers to
participation, which would include training and money. He has also argued that alternative media should
not require significant capital expenditure and while some technology is cheaper than others, there are still
large barriers to entry across media that are too often overlooked in alternative media scholarship. That
being said, in relative terms, those barriers remain quite low. The recent success of Tavi Gevinson, a 13-
year-old blogger of fashion, is a testament to how small those barriers can be and the potential possibilities
Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, (2011) Linda Jean Kenix
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of online communication. From her bedroom, Tavi Gevinson wrote a blog,
Style Rookie,
which started a
sensation in the fashion world. Within one year of the blog’s inception, she was actively courted by the
biggest names in fashion during New York Fashion Week; graced the cover of
Pop
magazine and was
interviewed by Pixie Geldof for the magazine
Love.
It is because of the platform of the Internet that Tavi
Gevinson was able to become so successful. However, it is also that same platform that reduced what
counts as successful in the first place. Hers is an extraordinary example of potential possibilities, but most
equate success on the Internet with a much lower benchmark of popularity given that the costs for entry
into the online marketplace are so low.
The number of platforms to deliver information has grown exponentially. These platforms will continue to
decrease their barriers to entry, which means a constantly rising influx of content creators flooding the
Internet. Consumption of such media is already far outstripped by production. The competition is
categorically fierce and only the very rare story manages to go viral and reach an audience of millions.
There are simply more and more places to see media, which means that proportionally more work remains
unseen. Every budding artist has a professional book or reel of creative media, but most of that content
has only been seen by a handful of people. But, when the costs of production are so low, then what is the
measure of success?
If ‘breaking even’ financially is the barometer of success then much of the alternative media created would
be categorized as successful. For example, as Blau (2005) rightly illustrates, large music labels would
consider the sales coming from many independent labels as failures because of the extremely high levels of
capital required to operate a multi-national corporation. But lower sales figures from artists within small
independent labels can still easily constitute an economically sustainable model of doing business given
their relatively low overhead costs. Within the music industry, there are only four organizations (Warner
Music Group, EMI, Sony BMG and Universal Music Group) that distribute about three-quarters of music
worldwide, but the remaining 30 percent of music, created by independent record labels, can generate a
proportionally higher rate of music output given the lower costs of promotion and creation. The same
model of economic sustainability applies across all media. If the barriers of entry and costs of production
are low enough, there will be lower benchmarks for success. These reduced thresholds for success will
mean that many more alternative media outlets will be flooding the Internet.
It is difficult to know from this sample if these alternative blogs would consider themselves as a success
because it is unknown how much time and effort and money were put into the creation of these blogs.
However, one can assume that the largest expense, within the blogs sampled here, would be time spent in
writing content. None of these blogs appeared to have paid other writers for content; there was no heavy
reliance on visual content, which might suggest a higher cost for editing software; and one could assume
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that the content from these blogs could have easily been written at one’s home as no story was knowingly
produced at a specific location. It is impossible to calculate the worth of one’s time and expertise, but one
could assume that given the relatively high number of readers, as evidenced by the Tumeke! rankings,
these bloggers might likely consider themselves as successes in the alternative online community.
Networking Integrated into Storytelling
Outside of major search engines, networking sites such as Bebo, Twitter, Facebook and Myspace are
among the most popular sites online. Any speculation about the future of alternative media must include
networking. News is “about connection, conversation and community” (Vargas, 2009). A reader connects
with the content, in whatever form that information delivery occurs. That information then sparks the
beginning of a conversation within each reader’s personal social networks, whether that is on or off-line.
When a reader engages with that material, they are also joining a community of like-minded people. Arthur
Miller, the famous playwright, once said that “a good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.” The future of
alternative media will expand this statement in ways that simply can’t be predicted at this stage, but active
networking between readers and with content will surely play a large role.
Information now travels at a nearly simultaneous speed. People learn of major news stories via Twitter
feeds and Facebook status updates. Users can verify sources and perspectives almost instantaneously
through the Internet. The unparalleled access to information means that transparency will become the
most important tenet of quality media reports, not objectivity. Objectivity, the longstanding principle of
journalism, will be subsumed by transparency (Weinberger, 2009). Alternative media are wedged within a
unique moment in history to exploit this epochal undercurrent. Mainstream corporate newspapers and
conglomerated broadcast networks have long relied on the credibility that their institution provided through
their simple existence as credentialed authority. This model of transferring information from an
authoritative and objective source to citizens proved so successful because of the nature of communication
prior to the Internet. The barriers for information retrieval were extremely high. One could certainly pour
through library archives or government documents housed in official warehouses, but the costs in time and
money remained too high for most. The mainstream authority on information relied on the widespread
assumption of objectivity to impart information to the masses. The Internet drastically changed how
citizens now think about the information provided. The preponderance of information available to users
means that transparency is now the most important quality of news information. Transparency allows
readers to examine the arguments, assumptions and values embedded within messages. “transparency –
the embedded ability to see through the published draft – often gives us more reason to believe a report
than the claim of objectivity did” (Weinberger, 2009). News information can easily be traced through
Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, (2011) Linda Jean Kenix
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heavily networked Twitter feeds or other online social networks. Alternative media must increasingly
integrate the “connection, conversation and community” embedded within a user’s personal experience if
they are to succeed.
Increasing Reliance on Visual Material
Technology will continue to develop along with broadband Internet access. Such changes will lead to a
continued increase in visual communication. Digital cameras already document protest marches and then
disseminate these moving images online. However, there is still a dominance of texting written information
through mobile phones or email messages. This should likely decrease as audiences become more reliant
on visual messaging. The importance of visual imagery to the mediated communication process has
continued to develop within a culture that has become increasingly visual (Fetveit, 1999; Sturken &
Cartwright, 2001). Media systems have gradually shifted over time away from text to visual communication
(Dyson, 1997).
Visual images are central to how we “represent, make meaning, and communicate in the world around us”
(Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, p. 1). Indeed, scholars, industry executives and practitioners are increasingly
conceptualizing visual imagery as an essential reproduction of informational cues that individuals use to
construct their perception of social reality (Messaris, 1997). Visual communication, through photographs or
video, are also “increasingly becoming a tool for an individual’s identity formation and communication” (van
Dijck, 2008, p. 57). Gattegno (1969) argued decades ago that that sight itself is simultaneous,
comprehensive and synthetic in its analysis. Visual imagery instantaneously affects how we perceive the
message – even before we read a single word. The power of visual messaging coupled with drastic
reductions in the cost of producing and receiving visual messages will translate to a more prolific use of
visual imagery in mediated communication. Visual storytelling will be a standard in the future.
The use of visual storytelling varied widely in the sample examined for this study but remained largely
textual in nature. Public Access has a multitude of producers, so there was a great level of variation across
the site. However, there was little use of visual imagery overall. There were instances of video posts and
images were used occasionally throughout public address, but it was not the standard in content. Cactus
Kate, Not PC, Gotcha!, No Minister and Frogblog used images in many of their posts but relied principally
on text and never used video. The Standard, The Dim-Post, and Red Alert had even fewer images online
and, again, no video content. Kiwiblog had no visual content online other than in the banner and in the few
advertisements that could be seen.
Such a reliance on textual information contradicts any notion of an increasing visual sphere – at least within
the New Zealand blogosphere sampled for this study. However, Huffington Post, a blog which ranks at
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almost doubles any blog competitors in relation to their Technorati Authority ranking (Technorati, 2009),
serves as an example of blog content that has a high synergy between visual and textual information. The
dominance of Huffington Post as a blog suggests that readers might respond well to visual stimuli. Large
images dominant the opening page as well as several video stories. Huffington Posts’ popularity could
obviously be due to other factors as well, however, the predominance of visual content in this very
successful alternative media website should be examined further. Yet, in the case of popular New Zealand
blogs, any reliance on visual communication has yet to take place.
Unique, Small-scale Funding Opportunities
How will the future of alternative media be funded? There are many models available to alternative media
today. Alternative publications, such as Salon, are experimenting with subscriber-based publications. Others,
such as Ms. Magazine, have chosen to draw funding solely from non-profit organizations and subscriptions
to create their publication. Still other alternative media have relied on grants from organizations such as
Resist and Funding Exchange, which have been funding alternative media and social change efforts for
years. Alternative media outlets also continue to depend upon a mix of public and private investment.
At the moment, the Internet is the most essential platform for attracting and collecting funds for alternative
media. The Internet allows for the opportunity of many small donations of support to underwrite the
growth of independent media. Moveon.org in the United States is an example of a very successful
organization built upon the aggregation of small financial contributions. Because of such economic success,
Moveon.org has been able to put forth their political positions onto the mainstream media agenda.
Moveon.org built their relative wealth from donations slowly over time. However, the Internet also can fuel
an extremely focused and rapidly escalating fundraising effort. This was the case for Jane Lucy, the
campaign producer for www.chickenout.tv, which is a website aimed at exposing the conditions of chickens
raised for food. Within the space of 24 hours, the website raised £80,000 online, £3.4 billion in investment
support and arguably changed the eating habits of Britain (SXSW, 2009).
All of the blogs in this sample were apparently self-funded with very little evidence of advertising support.
There was no obvious funding from any non-profit organization, such as the Independent Media Institute.
Given the relatively low barriers to entry and diminished thresholds for success, there may be little
incentive for the alternative blogs in this sample to seek out external funding. As the competition for viewer
attention continues to increase, the need for financial support will likely increase as well. Fortunately, the
Internet platform will allow for contributions from anyone with an Internet connection. With such
possibilities, it is likely that major funding sources may defer to a wider base of smaller donations and
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instead, choose to spread their financial interests across many alternative media outlets rather than just a
selected few.
Further Flattening of Responsibilities
Those who create the content will shape the future of alternative media. With very little financial
restrictions and expanding platforms for dissemination, content producers, in many ways, are limited only
by their own creativity. However, this free expansion of possibility also means that the categories and job
descriptions that have defined and organized modern media creators will likely disappear. Some have
argued that even income differentials, power, and decision making across all alternative media workers
must equalize (Albert, 2006b).
It is difficult to fully understand the roles and responsibilities of bloggers who create alternative online
media. Technological advances mean that the time and cost to produce content has substantially reduced,
which has allowed many more avenues of input from a variety of content producers. However, there were
not any explicit instances of naming another contributor to content produced for these blogs. So, it can be
assumed that Cactus Kate and David Farrar, for example, conducted all of their own interviews and
investigations as well as wrote their own content for their respective blogs, Cactus Kate and Kiwiblog.
However, those who do attempt to create content are responsible for a much wider range of tasks, such as
photography, interviews, reporting, web design, and server management. Without a wide network of
sources to draw upon, the responsibilities that require additional time and funding, such as investigative
journalism, will likely suffer in the future alternative media landscape.
David Simon, from
The Washington Post,
correctly argues that bloggers and other alternative media have
not yet begun to fill the gap that newspapers are quickly leaving behind (Simon, 2009). Speaking
specifically about
The Baltimore Sun
, Simon reported that an earlier murder involving a police officer was
never covered in the mainstream or alternative press because there simply were not enough resources to
investigate the story given that the local police were no longer obligated to name police officers involved in
citizen shootings under new public information laws. So, while the numbers of official reporters continue to
drop, the barriers to information can concomitantly rise. This suggests that the further flattening of
responsibilities predicted here does not bode well for an informed citizenry. More responsibilities heaped
upon news reporters that are already under severe time constraints means that some aspect of
newsgathering will likely be lost. As newsrooms continue to cut their numbers, some have argued that
bloggers and alternative media will help to replace the investigative abilities of a watchdog press (Lasica,
2003). However, such a shift in reporting would only be meaningful through a much stronger reliance on
contributing members and readers of alternative media. This is certainly happening to much smaller degree
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now, but if alternative media is to continue growing as a viable segment of the media then purposeful
extensions of alternative media into explicit citizenry input will need to be made.
Few Differences Between Consumers and Producers
Many blogs use comments as a form of feedback for readers but few use this space as an egalitarian
exchange between consumers of the content and the producers. Far from egalitarian relationships, many
alternative blogs still remain static, one-way forms of communication. Hamilton (2000) suggests that
alternative media should be interwoven throughout all of the facets of our lives. There should not be
artificial divisions between consumers and producers. Rather, communication – and therefore media-
should be explored and constantly negotiated. He readily admits that there are not many examples of
alternative media that fit within these prerequisites. He particularly notes the strength of montage as an
alternative media communication that can be used as a “means of critically reflecting on dominant social
conventions that operated through commercially available media products” (Hamilton, 2000, p. 371).
However, there are few examples within academic study that support any widespread usage of montage in
alternative media.
Citizens media, as a term within academic research, was pioneered by Rodriguez (2001). Rather than
exploring the practices and content of mainstream versus alternative media, Rodriguez argues that citizen
media is far more active in its identity. Citizen media are actually part of a process. They are a constantly
evolving expression that includes thoughtful, individual, reflections and analyses from those traditionally
outside of mainstream representations. These individuals combine and begin to collate together to actually
construct their citizenship. They do so through daily collective media action. These acts of citizenship
empower those who participate and then incite action through activist media within a camaraderie of fellow
citizens (Rodriguez, 2001).
Activist media encourages involvement on the part of readers (Waltz, 2005). This insistence upon action
does not need to fall on solely ‘alternative’ ideologies. In fact, many activist media have very mainstream
goals – such as urging others to vote in governmental elections. Autonomous media, on the other hand,
actively try to reform mainstream media practices (Uzelman, 2005). They attempt to create new
participatory avenues for people to engage with that are explicitly outside of the mainstream. The
distinction between activist and autonomous media is not in the level of activism called for. Rather, the
difference lies in the goal of working either inside or outside the system. Activist media can be seen as
more reformist, while autonomous media should be viewed as more revolutionary (Dowmunt & Coyer,
2007).
Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, (2011) Linda Jean Kenix
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Whether activist or autonomous, an egalitarian and engaged network of communication will define the
future of alternative media. A prominent example comes from a well-publicized MoveOn.org contest titled
Bush in 30 seconds, which called for users to create a 30-second anti-Bush commercial and submit it to the
organization’s website. The contest proved to be wildly successful with thousands of entries and even
generated mainstream media coverage. Each entry was given equal consideration and the resulting content
was entirely user-generated. Future alternative media content will rely on users to increasingly act as ‘foot
soldiers’ on the cyber frontiers. Content and reports will increasingly percolate up toward mainstream
publication, rather than down from mainstream content, which is largely the case now. Such shifts in the
directional flow of information could originate from an identifiable alternative media outlet or from readers
who actively participate in collecting information.
While this will likely be the future scenario of alternative media, such an egalitarian co-existence was not
found in the blogs sampled for this study. Rather, there was a largely one-dimensional flow of information
without any evidence of meaningful information communicated to the blogger nor any calls to action
toward users or commentators. There were some notable examples of identifying and highlighting
information from commentators on alternative media blogs. For example, Frogblog, Red Alert, Not PC,
Cactus Kate, Kiwiblog and The Dim-Post listed recent comments on the front page, giving prominent
placement to content from users. Content was not highlighted to the extent of the blog owner, but
placement on the first page does suggest some level of importance in relation to the original content
producer. There was also a clear drive to link within the alternative media blogosphere by listing blogrolls
on many of the sites sampled here. Only one site, Gotcha!, did not list a blogroll.
However, none of the bloggers here utilized the comment section for any meaningful level of
communication with their readers. This may be due to the sheer amount of blog comments received. As
comments continue to rise within a blog, the level of reciprocity may be likely to decline. But, the selectivity
of comments without communicative exchange found here may reflect what Herring et. al. (2004) labelled
the ‘asymmetrical communication rights’ between bloggers and the audience, whereby bloggers “retain
ultimate control over the blog’s content” (p. 6). Bloggers response, or lack thereof, to reader comments
may also play an integral role in the manipulation of communication processes online. By only responding
sporadically, if at all, to the multitude of relatively pithy comments, the bloggers’ status remains eminently
superior to those commenting and removes any possibility of a meaningful, communicative exchange.
Such an unequal relationship will need to change in future alternative media that will rely on the input and
information provided by users to create content.
As Wall (2005) correctly argues, comments now work to form more of a ‘neighborhood bar’ than a
Habermasian public sphere. Given the multitude of asynchronous, largely sarcastic and often angry
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comments online, one has to consider the function of these statements within the blogosphere. Certainly,
the ability of ordinary citizens to post comments online is a radical departure from established mass media
practices and the ability to post like-minded comments also may facilitate a sense of community online.
Participating within a thread of commentary may resemble the previously predicted communication pattern
that emphasizes viewers not only consume a mediated product, but also work to help create and construct
the meaning of that product (Rheingold, 2002). However, one has to wonder what kind of community and
what type of meaning is being created. By almost any definition, a self-assured, one-dimensional and
oppositional fighting front does not equate to democratic debate within a public sphere. Future alternative
media will rely on technological advancements that can separate comments into categories of instrumental
importance for the topic at hand whereby purposeful commentary can be readily exchanged and developed
by multiple users to create original user-created information.
Greater Emphasis on Local News
As the expanse of the Internet continues to unravel into the farthest reaches of the globe, the strength of
future alternative media will be in their ability to detail the events within a specific place and time. This
focus should be local, and at the grassroots level. Roy Greenslade, a prominent media commentator for
several publications, perhaps most notably
The Guardian,
argues that “not since the Seventies have we had
a genuine chance to imagine the possibility of a different business model for newspapers, a business model
that doesn’t involve making profits” (Slattery, 2009). Such a model would depend on a small framework of
local content and local producers.
Local content is thriving in some areas of the present media landscape and declining in others. For example,
community radio is increasingly “playing a crucial role in the democratic process by fostering citizen
participation in public life” (Meadows, Forde, Ewart, & Foxwell, 2009, p. 155). Community radio helps to
build local narratives that can be thought of within a complex pattern of ‘local talk’ that is central in creating
public consciousness. However, the rise of community journalism within radio is not mirrored in local
newspapers. Local newspapers are closing at an alarming rate (Greenslade, 2009). The globalized
marketplace of information and possibly a decline in journalistic standards (O'Neill & O'Conner, 2008) has
led to a decline in local sales. Local newspapers have continued to rely upon single sources (O'Neill &
O'Conner, 2008) and depend very little on readers for information, opting instead to focus on stories with
little consequence that require only simplistic newsgathering skills. Alternative media could easily fill such a
gap with networked writers and readers that are eager to explore perspectives relevant to their lives.
All ten of the top New Zealand blogs were decidedly local in their focus. As the Internet continues to
displace users across space and time, a need for centralized local content will dramatically increase and
Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, (2011) Linda Jean Kenix
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perhaps the dominance of locality in popular alternative news blogs is emblematic of such a need. Online
content overall continues to be dominated by content providers from developed countries, which often
reflect values and languages that can be diametrically opposed to those who receive that information.
Historically, the push and pull of information has depended heavily upon access to technology. The Internet
is largely removing those barriers in the creation and reception of content. The result will be users who are
clamouring for information pertinent to their own experiences. Local online news content of the future will
largely be taken up by alternative news sources given the continued closure of mainstream local outlets.
These local alternative sources of information will serve as reliable checks on local councils, police,
education issues and legislation.
Conclusion
The blogs sampled for this study showed varying adherence to the projections made in this research. This
study argued that alternative media will need to rely on cohesive portals of information and visual material
for future success. The popular New Zealand blogs in this sample did not operate within a larger portal of
information (outside of Public Access) and there was almost no reliance on visual material. Content was
largely politically subversive but still held wide differences between consumers and producers. There was
an almost complete emphasis on local news but very little focus on social networking. There were
infrequent opportunities to donate to these blogs. While impossible to conclusively measure through this
methodological framework, there were presumably a wide range of tasks these bloggers were responsible
for and also a likely reduced threshold of success.
These blogs may not have demonstrated all of the projections offered here, but it is suggested that if they
are to be successful in the future, they will need to adapt new strategies to counteract an increasingly
competitive alternative and mainstream media landscape. Some of the more popular alternative media
outlets from the United States, such as The Huffington Post and Alternet, are already drawing upon many,
but not all, of the projections offered in this study. Alternative media around the world need to quickly
adopt before American alternative media far outpace other international alternative media in attracting
reader support. The globalized marketplace of information online means that alternative media around the
globe need to be even more proactive in their approach. New Zealand blogs may not have been able to
draw as extensively from these suggested conceptualizations due to a host of reasons that deserve further
exploration. Future research could examine the discrepancies between alternative media in relation to
geographic origin and tease out the impact of cultural influences and differing levels of financial constraints.
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It is clear that alternative media around the globe will continue to expand alongside future technological
advances. The question that remains is to what degree they will do so. Mainstream media appear to be
largely locked within traditional norms of objectivity, formulaic newsgathering and a reliance on elite
sources. This might not continue into the future, particularly if alternative media grow to the potential
outlined here. If alternative media focus on transparency and reader input in conjunction with the
suggestions outlined in this research, they could feasibly gain a much larger share of the media landscape.
Thus far, mainstream media have not shown any obvious move toward the kinds of storytelling suggested
in this research, but these conceptualizations for future success are just as applicable to mainstream outlets.
The future of alternative media should be strong provided they adapt quickly to technological changes and
begin to draw upon the suggestions outlined in this paper.
An obvious limitation to this research is the small sample size. A more comprehensive examination of blogs
would be more meaningful as a representative sample of alternative news blogs. Interviews with bloggers
would also be beneficial in building research that better understands how bloggers manage their
responsibilities and their own perceptions of success or failure within the alternative blogosphere.
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