As media studies students, you’ve no doubt encountered the concept of commodification. It refers to the tendency to regard items, ideas, services etc in terms of their monetary worth, rather than for any other sort of value. In mass communication, the concept is applied to media messages and, as McQuail points out, audiences themselves, both of which can be primarily (if not exclusively) regarded as revenue sources by media owners.
One of the recurring themes in our class is the idea that social media removes the barriers to entry in mass media, affording audiences access to the tools of media production and distribution that were once only available to those with much greater resources. However, this more leveled playing field has not changed the realities of commerce. If anything, it’s intensified the monetisation of media.
Though he never actually uses the term in this video, Jonathan Mann (of A Song a Day fame) does a great job here of discussing commodification in the context of social media.
As you’re probably beginning to realise, creating and sharing on social media can be a deeply personal endeavor, even when your posts aren’t personal in nature. That human element becomes even more pronounced when we consider the nature of social media, and the regular interactions you’ll have with people who enjoy what you produce. While many (including Mann) embrace the revenue-earning opportunities of this environment, the idea of your creative output being nothing more than a money-earner can be sobering.
And as we’ll discuss next class, that idea can also be intensely problematic when it’s applied to journalism.