Content Osmosis and the Political Economy of Social Media


  • Don Ritter


This article explains the function of content osmosis within social media and it also provides historical examples of its use in the marketing of cigarettes, commercial films, and computers. The term ”˜content osmosis’ has been coined to designate the transfer of certain characteristics of media’s content into an audience, empowering them to feel as if these qualities are within themselves. Content osmosis has existed for decades within the belief that the consumption of specific products and services are determinants of one’s personal identity, and this belief has evolved more recently into the notion that our social needs can be enhanced through participation in social media. A detailed example of content osmosis is provided through a character analysis of the 1953 film Roman Holiday, a title that coincides with Baron George Gordon Byron’s phrase for an event that uses human suffering for enjoyment or profit. This article proposes that the dominant purveyors of social media are using content osmosis as an effective mechanism for attracting audiences to embedded advertising, and that depictions of human tragedy are used to attract audiences who are interested in ”˜Schadenfreude’.