▲ Memedia channels and MCNs. Provided by kr.besuccess.com.
The wave of revolution came along with the wave of likes and shares. The Arab Spring, also known as the Democracy Spring, a series of revolutionary acts in the Arab world, is well known for the effect Social Networking Service (SNS) had in its blooming. Likewise, South Korea has welcomed its spring in politics thanks to SNS and blogs. As individuals have come to share information easily online, the private ideas are no longer considered private. While the benefits of Memedia are well known, its limitations and ways to make enhancements have not been the main interest. Where is Memedia heading?
Does the term Memedia sound familiar? Memedia is a collective term for online services used for the communication of individual contents, including SNS, blogs, and photographs. With the development of communication technology, a new era has dawned in the realm of media.
According to the “2016 Research on Teenager’s Usage of Media” conducted by the Korea Press Foundation (KPF), one out of four teenagers turned out to be in use of Memedia. The fact that a higher portion of the teenage population uses new sources of media than traditional ones is notable. Unlike how viewers passively accepted information in the past, information, including personal views, is now actively created and shared through diverse platforms.
Among the many renovations Memedia has derived, including the allowance of the speedy exchange of information and enhancement of efficiency in gathering public opinions, the best is undoubtedly the onset of an open platform for discussion, binding different times and places together. Functioning as a forum of communication, Memedia is bringing about discussions covering various topics from politics to beauty items.
Africa TV is one of Korea’s leading Memedia contents providing companies. Lee Dae Woo, the chief manager of Africa TV’s advertising department, emphasized that the greatest benefit of Memedia is in the variety of content individuals with different interests make. Lee said, “Although traditional media has been successful in making programs with high quality, the greatest defect is probably the fact that it cannot meet the diverse needs of individuals.” Leading the trend of developing contents that cover a wide range of topics, Africa TV is on track to break new ground for media in South Korea.
On the other hand, however, Lee voiced his concern about the sustainability of Memedia. While light has been cast on the bright side of Memedia, the future of Memedia is not so hopeful. Along with the rise of popular one-man broadcasters, businesses platfor ms, commonly known as Multi Channel Networks (MCN), that support the development of Memedia, have also emerged. The concern is that MCNs and new media creators are not cooperating so well.
YouTube and Africa TV are two of the most popular MCNs that currently exist. After the trend of Memedia first started in the United States (U.S.), CJ Entertainment&Media (CJ E&M) was the first in South Korea to import the idea. Currently, CJ E&M has more than 600 broadcasters sending out their own content to the public.
However, the problem of MCN lies in the lack of a distinct profit structure. For instance, broadcasters on YouTube receive 55 percent of the profit generated by advertisements and 20 to 30 percent of the profit must be paid back to YouTube. This means that only one Korean won, on average, is paid to the broadcasters each time a viewer watches their content. In order to earn 100 million won, a broadcaster must gather 100 million viewers. In the case of Africa TV, the company does not pay its broadcasters but rather the viewers make donations for their favorite broadcasters. While this may be a good way to stimulate the development of better content, it mercilessly expels unpopular broadcasters from the field.
Another problem with Memedia is how it incites sensationalism. Memedia differentiates itself from other types of media by allowing the development of diverse contents, satisfying a wide spectrum of viewers. However, due to its volatile profit structure and fastidious consumers, broadcasters tend to create contents with stronger voices and concepts that stand out. Unfortunately, such excessive reliance on sensationalism has got out of hand that they distort reality. The recent incident of broadcasting jockeys (BJ) of Africa TV apologizing for their immature remarks regarding the disabled is an example that reflects how sensationalism aroused by Memedia can end up creating victims.
The same holds true for Memedia in politics. Even for big broadcasting companies like the three national ter restrial broadcasters, Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), and Munwha Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), the trustworthiness of information provided through news programs has always been a sensitive issue. Taking into account the protests asking Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting (JTBC) to clarify its stance about its coverage on Choi Soon-sil’s tablet-personal computer (PC), one of media’s primary roles is to provide accurate information to its viewers. While Memedia can function as a perfect source to deliver transparent information, it is also a form of media most vulnerable to manipulation.
Due to such issues regarding reliability, politics is one of the fields that must be dealt with using special care. Lee also states that Africa TV has been successful in developing contents in fields other than politics, but effort should be made to launch more politics-related broadcasts. Although it is well-proven that Memedia is a field with great potential, it still has a long way to go.
When asked about the greatest point of improvement that must be made, Lee answered, “While the development of contents should be our primary concern, the greatest struggle that we are currently facing is the profit issue. As the MCN industry is yet to have a stable profit structure, fierce competition is inevitable. Issues regarding sensationalism or yellow dog contracts are actually derived from the volatile profit structure, I believe.” Adding to this major problem that Memedia faces, Lee mentioned how a lot of people yet find Memedia unfamiliar or abnormal. In order to make the business grow in terms profit, quality, and diversity, a positive consensus on Memedia should first be made.
Although Memedia is expected to bring a shining future, its future is surrounded in uncertainty due to the limitations that exist in reality. Once again, people have realized the importance of media in society. With more precaution and attention, the rise of Memedia should not slip away as a mere fad. Only then will Korea’s media industry truly rise to the next level.