Social Media/Digital Capitalism
Do you ever wonder how social media platforms are still free? I will try and break it down for you, although the process of this industry is extremely complex. Hopefully, this will be useful to add to your knowledge bank, but you can always build it more with your own research. This quarter I am taking a communications class that has attempted to break this all down in a span of 10 weeks. So this will only scratch the surface of all the things you’ll need to know to make it make sense.
Basically, social media platforms are able to remain free for users because they operate as a dual product marketplace. This means that these platforms are profiting in two main ways: 1. They sell content to audiences. So for example Instagram is a platform that allows users to post and share content, and facilitate connections between individuals and companies. In this case, we are not being sold the content for a monetary value, but you’ll see how we end up selling our attention.
AND 2.They sell advertisement space to companies for their users to see. Using the same example, Instagram also is a platform for companies to try and sell their products to audiences. Companies create visual advertisements (pictures and videos) to camouflage in with posts from those you follow, tricking their users to make them money. Other platforms do the exact same thing. Take Google, the world’s #1 online search engine. Nowadays when you search for something, the first 5 (or so) results are paid advertisements, that Google actually makes money if you click. Social media and the internet did not always operate this way. At first, it was created as an online social space for users to connect. As the business models developed under capitalism’s influence, they’ve incorporated ways to make profits off our free time and attention.
Right now there aren’t a lot of policies (if any) to regulate these Big Tech industries. Where do we draw the line of invasion of privacy? Although we agree to these terms and conditions, we have no position to negotiate them. And after all if we don’t accept them, we will not be able to utilize these platforms that have evolved into the fastest way to spread information, news, culture, and ideas. Take this information into account as you continue to use these social media platforms. Do the pros outweigh the cons? The first and most important thing you can do is become informed.