Television has won

“Television, old or new, is the medium of our post-Enlightenment era when text and reason are substituted by images and emotions. To be brief and blunt, Trump is just the beginning.”

The Internet used to be something you read. In 2018, it will officially be something you watch.

Two decades after the web posed an unexpectedly serious challenge to television in the 1990s, we can now comfortably say television has won. It has conquered the internet, the media, and thereby the world.

Not just as a medium, but as a discourse which has deeply affected our understanding of ourselves and the world. Its linear, centralized, emotion-driven, and photography-centered form has prevailed over the decentralized, text-based, and reason-driven form of the World Wide Web, which was itself inspired by books and newspapers.

Not only is there a lot more investment into video journalism, television’s business models, broadcast or cable, are also dominating: from video ads before or in the middle of a clip, product placement, and monthly subscriptions. This is while digital or analogue ads for text-based media are plummeting.

Even criticism against “pivot to video” is more about “pivot to short videos” rather than videos altogether. Everybody is spending big cash on longform videos.

There are other similarities. Just as TV producers need cable or broadcast distributors to reach their audience, digital media now increasingly need social platforms such as Facebook or YouTube instead of their own websites or mobile apps. This wasn’t the case when the press had their own printing facilities or distribution systems.

Ideas such as “prime time” have also migrated from television to social media. You can’t tweet or post on Facebook or Instagram anytime any more. It has to happen at certain times to receive most engagement and thereby visibility.

This is all in addition to recent ideas such as YouTube TV, or Twitter and Facebook’s live broadcasts of conventional TV products. These are quite literally a re-imagination of television in the age of mobile internet.

The internet has become a neo-TV and we’re going to face the scary consequences of a TV-dominated society, some of which Neil Postman explained in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Television, old or new, is the medium of our post-Enlightenment era when text and reason are substituted by images and emotions. To be brief and blunt, Trump is just the beginning.

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