Open Portals or Closed Gates? Channeling Content on the World Wide Web

Authors: Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Hargittai, E. (2000). Open Portals or Closed Gates? Channeling Content on the World Wide Web. Poetics (Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts). 27(4), 233-254.


This paper explores what the tension between information abundance and attention scarcity implies for the diversity of information accessible to users of the World Wide Web. Due to limited user attention, there is a role for gatekeepers in the online content market. Sites that catalog Web content and primarily present themselves as content categorization services are identified as the gatekeepers in the new information age. Exploring the mechanisms by which they organize content is essential to understanding how user attention is allocated to information available on the Web. Theories about media content diversity are delineated to suggest what we may expect with respect to content diversity online. Methods for future empirical investigation are suggested. Finally, the policy implications of the argument are presented.


  • Introduction
  • The Production and Distribution of Cultural Goods
  • The Rise of Navigational Sites on the World Wide Web
  • Locating Content on the Web
  • Informed Advertisers, Uninformed Public
  • Portal Strategies
  • Diversity in Media Content
  • Online Content Diversity
  • Policy Implications
  • Conclusion


This research was supported by a Ford Foundation grant from the Council on Regional Studies of Princeton University.

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