Who controls the news . . . and who profits?

A report out today by the Pew Research Center suggests the large digital companies have wrested control of the news you receive from the traditional media companies.

The report on the “State of the News Media 2012” draws two major conclusions:

  1. Rather than siphon viewers from news sites, mobile technology is increasing news consumption.
  2. Major digital networks like Google and Facebook increasingly exert control over news content and delivery.

Here’s the bright side of the report:

“New research released in this report finds that mobile devices are adding to people’s news consumption, strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism. Eight in ten who get news on smartphones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well. People are taking advantage, in other words, of having easier access to news throughout the day – in their pocket, on their desks and in their laps.”

Here’s the dark side:

“At the same time, a more fundamental challenge that we identified in this report last year has intensified — the extent to which technology intermediaries now control the future of news.

“In the last year a small number of technology giants began rapidly moving to consolidate their power by becoming makers of ‘everything’ in our digital lives. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are maneuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the e-mail services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share and the web platforms on which they shop and play. And all of this will provide these companies with detailed personal data about each consumer.”

It’s like allowing the electric company to control your data, or the telecom companies to tap your phones. For free. Then charge you for delivery.

Maybe the New York Times should change its motto.