Guru Claims ‘Internet has ‘not become the great leveller’ – I disagree for different reasons.

Internet and marketing guru Ethan Zuckerman claimed yesterday at the TED Global conference in Oxford, England, that the ‘‘Internet has ‘not become the great leveller’ – and that information consumption habits had become narrower for most consumers since the arrival of the ‘free’ internet.

With all due respect to Mr. Zuckerman – I must disagree on his point of view. While the direct news consumption habits and the availability of news from preferred sources may have become narrower, internet users have at their disposal a much broader platform that is available to verify, share, and source information. If we were to rewind 20-years, and a consumer of news were to read a story about Mr. Zuckerman in their preferred newspaper they would have only that news story available, and until that newspaper printed another news story about Mr. Zuckerman or they searched through printed material (magazines, books, journals, etc.) I would be stuck. If I wanted some information about Mr. Zuckerman’s work – I could perhaps write him a letter and engage in correspondence with him. If we fast forward to the present day, and I read an online article about Mr. Zuckerman – such as this one – and this piques my interest, I am just a couple of clicks away from finding out everything I could possibly want to know about Mr. Zuckerman – such as this simple Google search.

Prior to the advent of the ‘free’ internet, consumers were in a position where to consume news they had to find source generally aligned with their world view – and accept what was delivered. This was a very un-levelled playing field. Now, the playing field is slanted in the consumers favour due to the availability of information via search engines.

The assertion by Mr. Zuckerman that internet users exclusively consume news or information from single sources, as they did in the past, is clearly wrong. A trusted news source, such as the BBC or CNN, may be a leaping off point – but in most cases it is not the end of the line. The growth of search engines and their adoption by the overwhelming majority of internet users to find out information has allowed the playing field to become, if anything slanted in the favour of the consumer.

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