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Traditional media on its way out in Thailand

According to a recent report, Thailand and the world is seeing a new tier of economy members. Aptly named ‘pro-sumers’, these groups both produce and consume news and entertainment and are seeing their influence steadily spreading across the nation.

Thailand’s consumer behaviour when it comes to news and similar content has changed significantly in just a few years, triggering the rapid decline of traditional media and the rise of online and social media.

There are now more than 50 million Thais using the world’s largest social media platform, 42 million on the new freeware app for instant communications and millions more regularly checking their other social media feeds and watching videos of streaming platforms. All this in a country whose total population is 69 million.

These Internet media platforms have profoundly changed the way Thais get their news and other information.

The world’s largest social media platform, for example, has become a virtual city in itself, a vast community whose “central business district” bustles with communications between and among individuals and groups, with shopping sprees, political debate and all sorts of casual amusement.

The American online news and social networking service are even more popular as a platform for staying alert to what’s “trending” in the world – meaning what people online are chatting about most.

The Editor-in-chief at a popular online platform in Thailand, notes that the world’s largest photo and video-sharing social networking service has increasingly become the online “lifestyle magazine” of choice among the youngest social networkers.

It’s where you find the kind of content previously featured in all those printed magazines that the disruptive digital technology drove out of business.

Television – once the cutting-edge technology for every home and blamed for undermining the appeal of cinemas and drive-ins – has been utterly displaced by online video-streaming services.

The most popular of these video streaming sites are the new go-to audio-visual media for young audiences who are quite happy watching full-length movies on a hand-held phone.

While the size of the screen may have decreased significantly, the level of viewers’ enjoyment clearly has not. The digital media platforms have ushered in a new era of information, most of it delivered via smartphones and TV sets enabled for streaming.

For entertainment, an American media-services provider and its counterparts are muscling aside cable TV and other older-generation systems.

Overall, traditional forms of media are on the way out, resulting in job losses and business closures, as consumers continue to be drawn towards by the new and exciting experiences hi-tech services provide.

The so-called platform economy, coupled with near-universal use of smartphones and other gadgets, has facilitated the rise of “pro-sumers” – consumers who are also producers of content, including breaking news. The gatekeeper role of conventional media has significantly diminished in this new media landscape as a result, with the unfortunate side effects of increased fake news and biased reporting.

This phenomenon is expected to become even more common unless the new technology itself adopts a system for checking facts and verifying content on social media.

Most politicians are already taking full advantage of online platforms to not just spread their message but also manipulate opinion by making inaccurate claims.

Thailand’s political parties have a large presence on social media as the general election draws nearer.

There is as yet no effective model for tackling fake news in the political context, even as it profoundly shapes events taking place in the West.

It will take immense and consistent effort on the part of civil society to introduce and maintain a check-and-balance mechanism regarding content accuracy, and platform owners will have to intensify their own policing.

All “netizens”, younger and older, have a responsibility to ensure that the emerging digital society is not misled or confused.

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