In this day and age the people formerly known as the audience are now mostly active consumers and aggregators of content, uploading and distributing their fair share of opinions on varying topics. However, passive consumers still exist in this environment.
The New York Times slogan ‘All The News That’s Fit to Print‘ ultimately encapsulates the gatekeeping qualities of which traditional news processes possess (input, output, response) and demonstrates the patronising tone of community watchdogs. It poses us, the consumers, as the passive audience where there is no other role for us other than this, ‘to consume filtered content imposed on us by gatekeepers.’ With limited choices for consumption in legacy media, the audience, by choosing to engage with it, create a ‘self-imposed news blackout‘.
This contrasts to the process of gatewatching, which is to ‘observe the gates of a wide range of information sources for useful and relevant materials that they think should be brought to the attention of the wider community.’ (Bruns 2009, p.6). Reddit is a place where gatewatching is abundant and facilitates an array of subreddits. From /r/HowNotToGiveAFuck to /r/Buddhism, Reddit is a diverse community that has been coloured by its users who are constantly generating content through fast feedback loops, creating a site with scalability and a permanent beta.
Consequently, social media sites such as Reddit, are spaces comprising of user generated content which have produced information avalanches. We have seen profound examples of this, specifically where Twitter has been instrumental in assisting people during times of natural disasters. The Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G) alerted victims during Hurricane Sandy (2012) through Twitter about the daily locations of their giant tents and generators. Additionally, key words such as “stay safe,” “no power,” “frankenstorm,” “flooding” and “blackout.” were used to connect the people experiencing this disaster amongst the Twitter community. Ultimately, 52 million tweets were produced regarding Hurricane Sandy and areas that were most affected. Because Twitter is a platform where content is constantly being produced, the feature of keywords and hashtags is integral during situations such as these. As a result, information grabbing is faster and easier on Twitter as opposed to news channels, because of shorter feedback loops and features such as keywords and hashtags.
If only legacy media took seriously the warning signs of their inevitable doom in the wake of new media and consumer generated content.