Media Content: Standardization and Imitation

Media Content: Standardization & imitation
– N. M. Adhikary
Asst. Professor of Media Studies
Dept. of Languages and Mass Communication
Kathmandu University

One of the distinctive features of media production is that it has to deal with changing environment of the world. This is contrary to other industrial products. They produce products which are more or less similar to each other. Unlike them media industry has to go through stages of gatekeeping including identifying, selecting, reporting and processing to each and every product. The processes of framing and priming are part and parcel of media content producers.

Some news events may be one-off time, such as a particular game show, or a particular television talk show but many events are routine base. While presenting media content, persons involved in it try to develop a standardized format for the presentation. Especially, in today’s competitive environment each medium sees to another one to know what the counterpart is doing. Also, many texts are prepared by a single agency for various media. Not only news agencies, but also feature syndicates too, have been producing and disseminating contents that are placed in dozens, if not hundreds, of outlets around the world. So there is obvious chance of following a standardized format by various media.

Standardization is a standard way of presenting media contents. This concept had come for the sake of media industry’s efficiency in producing media content as well as for the sake of audiences’ easiness to receive and understand the content. It may be thought as universalizing the structure of presentation of media content and hence is useful in developing media literacy too. The standardization is viewed as beneficial to audiences. It helps audiences to understand the media content. Audiences conventionally get media content and they receive it as usual. Without standardization they may lack usual format of news story presentation and hence feel uneasy. The inverted pyramid format of news presentation is a typical example of standardization.

The standardization should be evaluated comparing with imitation. In these days, mass media are competing for the same source of revenue. That is, they have to compete to earn their revenue from the same audience. Thus they tend to, and, in fact, have to, see whether any content delivered may be accepted by the audience or not. If competitor’s certain program or story is getting higher ratings, then one obviously tries to change his lacking program. Then there is possibility of imitation. Various family drama serials and game shows dominant in TV channels are such examples.

Such programs, containing same theme and presenting imitating episodes, are actually trying to attract same kind of audiences. They are competing with the same type of content. By doing so, they are treating their audiences only as the components of their market offer. That is, they are just trying to collect more audiences and then handover the “number” to advertisers. They know the fact that greater the number of audiences greater is the chance to get advertisement. Standardization is different from that of imitation. Imitation undermines the audiences and just copy what others are doing. Generally, commercial media use to practice imitation.

The practice of imitation undermines the actual needs of audiences and seeks to make profit by delivering the “hot cake” contents. There is no scope for innovativeness. This imitation is different from that of standardization. Generally the imitation is supposed to be in favor of producer. There are some critics who say that even standardization is also in favor of producers. It is believed that imitation brings immediate profit. At least, it can be said that the purpose of imitation is to get immediate profit.

There are many ethical controversies regarding the imitation in the context of media content. As we know, different sets of audiences have different characteristics, different background and different needs. Any program or media content prepare in view of specific set of audience may not be relevant to others. But the process of imitation doesn’t count this fact. It is imposing whatever is in disposal to the audiences. Hence some critics opine that the imitation is just cheating.

Media need their audiences more than audiences need media. The main product issue has to do with the genre of the media service, especially questions of adequate quality and choice for the consumer of content. Since media depend on volunteer choices of their audiences, effectiveness and profit will come together. So cheating to audience is much harmful to the corresponding mass medium itself.
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