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The Rise and Fall of Mass Communication


William L. Benoit and Andrew C. Billings

Mass communication theories were largely built when we had mass media audiences. The number of television, print, film or other forms of media audiences were largely finite, concentrating people on many of the same core content offerings, whether that be the nightly news or a popular television show. What happens when those audiences splinter? The Rise and Fall of Mass Communication surveys the aftermath of exactly that, noting that very few modern media products have audiences above 1–2% of the population at any one time. Advancing a new media balkanization theory, Benoit and Billings neither lament nor embrace the new media landscape, opting instead to pinpoint how we must consider mass communication theories and applications in an era of ubiquitous choice.
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Chapter Four The Customization of America: My Reality Is Not Yours



The Customization ofAmerica: My Reality IsNot Yours

In July 2017, an exceedingly popular game was released to the masses. It was distinctive in its design, but what made it really stand out from most of its other competitors was its business model. Following the earlier massive success of Riot Games’ League of Legends, Epic Games offered their online video game entry, Fortnite, free of charge—and with no potential mechanism for purchasing upgrades to enhance a player’s game performance. The model was stunningly successful. At its late 2018 peak, 78 million players were logging in each month, with as many as 8.3 million playing concurrently (Rodriguez, 2018). Moreover, Fortnite was outpacing any other online game financially, all while maintaining its free-to-purchase, “no purchases can enhance performance” principles. Rather, the money was made entirely on customizing one’s own player or experience, buying V-Bucks for roughly one cent each. Those purchases added up, earning the company a reported $318 million each month (Molla, 2018). When comparing to other viral gaming options, Fortnite would earn more than Pokémon Go ($2B in total earnings) in less than seven months and could surpass Candy Crush ($5B in total earnings) in less than a year and a half (Ball, 2019), all accomplished through customization—the desire to have the game personalized for one’s optimal consumption.

Much of this book thus far has been on the wide array of choices that collectively can micro-target one’s interests to the point that, if not...

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