What Old Mainstream Media Taught Me about New Media

10 12 2008

mb-headshot32Reading the Sunday New York Times each week is something that I hold sacred. Even though I am completely hooked into all digital media formats, nothing quite replaces the physical newsprint with its smudging ink and messy sections that lay around the house for days. I’m not likely to listen to a podcast while wearing slippers and munching on a bagel with cream cheese, but that is precisely what I want to do while reading my weekend morning paper.

So it’s something of a wakeup call, and a bit stronger than my cup of morning Joe, to read the Times these days. They are writing a lot about the changing landscape of media, as blogs, videos and other digital forms continue to body slam analog forms of communication. Chief among these writers is Virginia Heffernan, whose The Medium column (and blog) is really tapping into the general zeitgeist right now. Consider this from her most recent article:

People who work in traditional media and entertainment ought either to concentrate on the antiquarian quality of their work, cultivating the exclusive audience of TV viewers or magazine readers that might pay for craftsmanship. Or they should imagine that they are 19 again: spending a day on Twitter or following a recipe from a Mark Bittman video played on a refrigerator that automatically senses what ingredients are missing and texts an order to the grocery store (it will soon exist!). Then they should think about what content suits these new modes of distribution and could evolve in tandem with them. For old-media types, mental flexibility could be the No. 1 happiness secret we have been missing.

As someone who has worked with old media for years, I couldn’t put it any better myself. We do need to stretch our minds to wrap our heads around all the changes taking place. The week before she wrote this, the Times had an entire magazine devoted to the proliferation of screens everywhere and how this is upending our traditional textual modes of communication. Kevin Kelly wrote in the Idea Lab about Becoming Screen Literate.

As I’ve written before in this blog, the advent of digital video is forever altering how we communicate. Kelly’s article really lays out a vision for the visual future that’s actually becoming reality right now.

A couple months ago I opened the magazine and read “Facebook in a Crowd by Hal Niedzviecki. That article really floored me because it articulated what turns off some marketers to social networking – the illusion that what happens online automatically translates into something real offline. His article demonstrates that those you’re calling “friends” in Facebook don’t really hold the same weight as your friends in the real world, and that this brave new world has a whole new set of rules. (It’s a hilarious article and well worth reading.)


If you’re already incredibly immersed in all things social, then this is old news to you. But with constantly evolving means of communication, the idea that any one person can know everything about our changing online world is simply laughable. But, I just hope that while I cling to my Sunday morning old media tradition, my mind remains flexible and open to the ever-expanding online media universe. That, and a good bagel and coffee, are my number 1 happiness secret.

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