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

Eszter Hargittai
Sociology Department

2000. Poetics. 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.


    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

View pre-print version of paper in pdf format

(If you download this paper, please send me a note at I'm always curious to hear who else is doing related work or has related interests. Thanks.)

An earlier version was published in the Working Paper Series of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University. A previous version of this paper was presented at a Spring 1999 Workshop of the Center.


I would like to thank Paul DiMaggio for his helpful guidance since the initial stages of this project. I am also indebted to Rudy Bakalov, Christopher D. Hunter, Brian Steensland, Steven Tepper, Craig Upright, Bob Wuthnow, an anonymous reviewer and participants of the 1999 Spring Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies workshop for their helpful comments. Support from the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts is kindly acknowledged.

Please let me know that you dropped by - sign my Guestbook!

Back to Eszter Hargittai's Page on Work
Back to Eszter Hargittai's Homepage

Last updated: February, 2000