Speed Reads

media bubble

The internet was supposed to democratize the news. That didn't really happen.

One of the great virtues of the internet, conventional wisdom has long held, is that it will diversify and democratize the news media, exposing the news consumer to a broader range of viewpoints by making it easier to hear from people with different backgrounds, philosophies, and locations than our own.

But in an analysis that examines why President Trump's win was so "unthinkable" for many — and especially many on the left — in the run-up to the election, statistician Nate Silver notes that new media has actually tended to "amplify the groupthink" by making ideological echo chambers. "Once a consensus view is established, it tends to reinforce itself until and unless there's very compelling evidence for the contrary position," Silver writes.

As local news sources shrivel up, reporting power is shifting toward a handful of major publications with a national following and an establishment perspective. By one metric of online readership Silver cites, the "share of total exposure for the top five news sources [in a given month] climbed from roughly 25 percent a decade ago to ... above 40 percent so far in 2017." Though this is "not a perfect measure," he concedes, it "is one sign the digital age hasn't necessarily democratized the news media."

Read the rest of Silver's analysis at FiveThirtyEight.