The Medium is The Message

“If the news is that important, it will find me.”

– A college student responding to a focus group question

The times, they are a changin’. No doubt about it. The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, etc.  They have had to change, albeit reluctantly.

There has been a shift in power:

The mainstream media no longer control how their content is delivered – it can be forwarded by a friend or colleague. There are multiple channels where it can be accessed – original content frequently appears as a “link” on a competitors website. And, of course, the mainstream media no longer control when their content can be read or seen or heard.

I no longer wait for the “thump” of the Sunday edition of the New York Times to hit my doorstep. That used to be my signal to wake up, make the coffee and relax for a few hours absorbing the news and views of the newspaper of record.

I ended my subscription to the paper almost two years ago. I do not miss the full page ads from Macy’s and Bloomingdale. But I am sure that those department stores miss me. Or at least my subliminal attention. And I am sure that the New York Times misses both the revenue they got from my subscription and the advertising revenue from Macy’s and Bloomingdale. I will admit, however,  to missing the two hours of sitting in my easy chair on Sunday morning!

The times they are a changin’.

Take this morning. I found this headline intriguing:

Finding Political News Online, the Young Pass It On – by Brian Stelter

So I clicked on it to read it. However, it is original content from the NY Times but I found it on the website. This is now a common occurrence. I call it “Drudging the content.” This is a reference to the popular news website, The Drudge Report which does no actual reporting. It simply – and effectively – populates its only web page with “links” to original content found on other websites.

Does it really matter where I get the article from? Not to me.

I do hope that MSNBC and The NY Times have some sort of reciprocal revenue arrangement worked out. But that is not of my concern. To quote the unnamed college student, “If the news is that important it will find me.”

I titled this post, “The Medium is The Message”  as a tribute to Marshall McLuhen, a Canadian educator who coined the phrase in 1964. Here is a short definition of the phrase, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhanmeaning that the form of a medium imbeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived, creating subtle change over time. The phrase was introduced in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964.[1] McLuhan proposes that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study; he said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.

I first remember hearing this phrase when I was 17 in 1967. I was standing in line waiting to see the movie, “The Graduate” and was discussing this concept with my friends. I continue to retain a vivid image of that evening in my mind – 41 years later! Both McLuhan’s concept and the movie have had a profound impact on my thinking.

Just as YouTube, Facebook and the other Social Networks are having a profound impact on our current culture.

“According to interviews and recent surveys, younger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter — reading The Washington Post, clicking on — with a social one.”

“There are lots of times where I’ll read an interesting story online and send the U.R.L. to 10 friends,” said Lauren Wolfe, 25, the president of College Democrats of America. “I’d rather read an e-mail from a friend with an attached story than search through a newspaper to find the story.”

So who needs Keith Olberman or Wolf Blitzer or Brian Williams to interpret the news for us? Friends, family and colleagues are the Managing Editors of the moment. Although Comedy Central’s lineup of The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report plays an important role in how many people access the news. I only hope that they get the joke!

The Medium is The Message!

Here’s another brief excerpt from the NY Times article:

“Young people also identify online discussions with friends and videos as important sources of election information. The habits suggest that younger readers find themselves going straight to the source, bypassing the context and analysis that seasoned journalists provide.”

So, in the spirit of the times – please forward this post to your friends if you find it interesting. Enter your comments below so that we can continue the discussion on-line. Bookmark this post so that you can read it at a time that you find more convenient. Click on a few of the Hyperlinks to gather additional information.

But remember:

“The two words information and communication are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”

– Sydney J. Harris

Embrace the technologies of the new medium. Make sure that your communication gets through!

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