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Social media industries and the rise of the platform

A Book Chapter by Pieter Verdegem, published by Routledge

This new book chapter by Pieter Verdegem, published in The Routledge Companion to Media Industries, takes as its starting point the notion that social media platforms are now among the most valuable companies in the world and their impact on everyday life is enormous. In the chapter, Verdegem analyzes the global landscape of the social media industries (SMIs) and investigates the dynamics behind the emergence of social media giants. He starts by conceptualizing SMIs and explain their key characteristics, continuing by elaborating on how platformization and datafication, alongside network effects, contribute to the emergence of a winner-take-all economy. Verdegem applies this framework to examine the rise of the social media giants in the United States and China, and how these form the social media oligopolies represented by the groupings GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) and BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent). To analyze SMIs, this contribution argues a combination of media economics (ME) and critical political economy (CPE) is required for understanding not only the behaviour of individual firms but also the societal and political consequences of concentrations in ownership. The chapter concludes by asking about the impacts of corporate power in the SMIs, especially as social media platforms become frontrunners in data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capitalism.

The Routledge Companion to Media Industries brings together 49 chapters from leading experts in media industries research, this major collection offers an authoritative overview of the current state of scholarship while setting out proposals for expanding, re-thinking and innovating the field.

Media industries occupy a central place in modern societies, producing, circulating, and presenting the multitude of cultural forms and experiences we encounter in our daily lives. The chapters in this volume begin by outlining key conceptual and critical perspectives while also presenting original interventions to prompt new lines of inquiry. Other chapters then examine the impact of digitalization on the media industries, intersections formed between industries or across geographic territories, and the practices of doing media industries research and teaching. General ideas and arguments are illustrated through specific examples and case studies drawn from a range of media sectors, including advertising, publishing, comics, news, music, film, television, branded entertainment, live cinema experiences, social media, and music video.

Making a vital and significant contribution to media research, this volume is essential reading for students and academics seeking to understand and evaluate the work of the media industries.


Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash


Pieter Verdegem


Dr Pieter Verdegem is Reader in Technology and Society in the Westminster School of Media and Communication and member of CAMRI (the Communication and Media Research Institute).

His research investigates the political economy of media and communication and the impact of digital technologies on society.

He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and teaches core undergraduate and postgraduate modules every year.

Prior to joining the Westminster School of Media and Communication, he was Assistant Professor in New Media and ICT in the Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium (2012-2016) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University, Sweden (2011-2012). He holds a PhD in Communication Sciences from Ghent University.


13 October 2021
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CAMRI | Social media industries and the rise of the platform - CAMRI
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