Don't be Fooled by Big Changes in Media Technology

Back when pundits were gushing about the “Arab Spring” as a “social media” phenomenon, your humble blogger thought troops, tanks, and TV coverage probably had more to do with the unfolding events than Twitter.  So I was happy to see that someone who does factual research in media economics, Matthew Gentzkow, received the Annual Clark Medal from the American Economic Association last month.

gentzkow3.jpgGentzkow is a professor at my alma mater, the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.  The Clark Award  is intended to honor an "American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge."

Gentzkow was credited by the Association with “fundamental contributions to our understanding of the economic forces driving the creation of media products, the changing nature and role of media in the digital environment, and the effect of media on education and civic engagement.” 

His media research across platforms and over historical periods challenges conventional assertions that the internet has changed everything about the news and journalism.  An interview with Caroline O’Donovan published on the Nieman Journalism Lab site provides the flavor of his findings. “The Internet,” he says “is not all that different from any other medium.”

The ways we all create, communicate, and consume information have changed more rapidly and more profoundly than any other aspect of our lives.  Politics is transforming as a result.  But the laws of political-economics have not changed.  Scientific research like that performed by Gentzkow reveals that “old media” and “new media” have a lot in common.  The same holds for “old politics” and “new politics.”


Portrait of Matthew Gentzkow, Richard O. Ryan Professor of Economics and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business on August 4, 2013. (Photo by Dustin Whitehead) used with permission.

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