Old Media? New Media? It’s Still Media

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

For some reason, we need to make comparisons between old and new.

Since the end of the Civil War and to the present, we read about the emergence of the New South, embodied by progressive social, business, political and cultural movements and a transition from the way things were for decades.  In 1985, one of the world’s best-known brands was re-introduced as New Coke, a new formula for the iconic soft drink; it didn’t last, as consumers demanded the old stuff.

Earlier this week, PRSA Chicago hosted an excellent luncheon panel discussion on a topic that tackled the subject of old vs. new: “Making Old Media New Again.”  The excellent panel was moderated by Harlan  Teller, Of Counsel at FD, and was comprised of Joanie Bayhack, SVP Corporate Communications/Direct Marketing at WTTW-TV, Julian Posada, founder of Cafe Media and Joyce Winnecke, VP/Association Editor at the Chicago Tribune.

Before I give my thoughts on old vs. new media, here are a few bullet points that grabbed me by the proverbial collar:

  • In the media arena, it’s all about relevancy.  This holds true for a print piece, a broadcast expose or a Tweet.
  • And, from a similar perspective, media companies are in business to make a profit; new and old media enterprises are centered around monetary returns.
  • Expect the continued creation of partnerships between traditional media companies and other entities. For example, the Tribune collaborated with the Second City comedy troupe.
  • Old and new media will have to demonstrate even more transparency than ever before. “They have to put that stake firmly in the ground,” Posada said.
  • Web sites are becoming more irrelevant in a texting and hand held kind of w0rld.
  • There remains value in strong media brands at the local level.
  • The media can still deliver the same message, but it must be done in 10 different ways.

Outstanding insight, although I disagree with the projection that website are becoming passe.  (Where would those short links in Tweets link to?) Now it’s my turn.

The “old” media vs. “new” media debate really is not, well, a new issue.  In its essence, “media” has been in existence, one can argue, since 1453 when Gutenberg employed a printing press and movable type.

Mass production of books gave man the ability to communicate effectively to a wide audience. Books were followed by newspapers and periodicals, which were followed by radio, movies and television, which were followed by online/digital communications.

Each of these forms of communication have had to re-invent itself to survive, thrive, inspire, challenge and remain relevant.  Here’s an example during my lifetime.

I recall the launch of USA Today in 1982 by media powerhouse Gannett. The nation already had a tremendous national newspaper in the Wall Street Journal.  But the Journal clearly was speaking to the business audience; USA Today was speaking to everyone, and it pioneered the incorporation of color photos, banners and graphics — tactics used by all newspapers today, those precious few that still publish.

Research showed the people at Gannett that the nation would buy and read a national newspaper that covered breaking news, sports and features, as well as business news.  Technology allowed publication nationwide and use of color.

Back to the debate in question.  “Old” or “new,” media still remains the way we deliver a message to an audience beyond the person in front of you. It will continue to evolve based upon market demands and technology.

To paraphrase a Billy Joel song from three decades ago: “Everybody’s talking about the new kind of communications but it’s still media to me.”

It\’s Still Rock and Roll to Me