The economic dynamics of the internet

This is a riveting essay in Monthly Review. I blush with shame that this is not a "credible source" but notwithstanding, it is still a worthwhile read. Some excerpts:

The Internet today is seeing a wave of alliances among the largest corporations at all levels of our analysis. Erecting large walls, creating scarcity, is the name of the game. The 2011 merger of Comcast with NBC (owner of Universal film studios as well as television interests) appears to be the first great merger of the new era.

As the authors of a 2011 report by the New America Foundation put it, we are entering a world of digital feudalism, where a handful of colossal corporate mega-giants rule private empires. Advertising will be given every opportunity to exploit the system, and any meaningful notion of privacy will have to be sacrificed.

Putting together an attractive Web site people would want to visit and support in large numbers requires resources. If the big guys, with all their advantages, were struggling to make a go of it, it was a nightmare for everyone else. In fact, no content-creating newcomers have been able to enter the field in any significant manner and make money, despite the ostensible opportunity to leapfrog existing barriers-to-entry. The huge media conglomerates are only now in the process of converting the digital realm into a lucrative source of profit making for entertainment products—and the profits still pale in comparison to those generated by their “old media” operations.

The evidence is now in: though there are an infinite number of Web sites, human beings are only capable of meaningfully visiting a small number of them on a regular basis. The Google search mechanism strongly encourages implicit censorship, in that sites that do not end up on the first or second page of a search effectively do not exist. As Michael Wolff puts it in Wired: “[T]he top 10 Web sites accounted for 31 percent of US pageviews in 2001, 40 percent in 2006, and about 75 percent in 2010.” “Big sucks the traffic out of small,” ...

Hindman’s research on journalism, news media, and political Web sites is striking in this regard. What has emerged is “power law” distribution where a small number of political or news media Web sites get the vast majority of traffic. They are dominated by the traditional giants with name recognition and resources. There is a “long tail” of gazillions of Web sites that exist but get little or no traffic, and few people have any idea that they exist. Most of them wither, as their producers have little incentive and resources to maintain them.