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Let's Stop The Bullsh*t: Traditional Media Is NOT Dead

07/26/2012 08:06 am ET | Updated Sep 25, 2012

About two years ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave a speech where he said that he sees traditional media as "dead men walking." He argued that everything will soon be online, static content will no longer be a viable option, and media businesses must evolve and find a compelling combination of relevance and context. This was reinforced when a 24/7 Wall St./Harris Poll revealed that the majority of American adults believe that in ten years traditional media will not exist any longer. This led to an avalanche of articles sounding the death knell for traditional media and extolling the rise of free information through social media.

My response? Bullshit! Traditional media is not dead now and never will be. Look closely at the survey results and you'll see that people still want information; they are just changing the way they want to receive it. As the younger generation takes over, they might look for their news online BUT they are not abandoning traditional media altogether.

Patricia Wilson, founder of BrandCottage, an agency with offices in New York and Atlanta, specializes in media planning and social networking, and helps clients harness the power of both new and old media. She says,

"Television is still the number one media choice by American consumers and is far from dead. In fact, Nielsen's 'State of the Media: Consumer Usage Report 2011' reported that the average American watched traditional television for an average of 33 hours PER WEEK."

What's changing is the shift to multi-tasking and cross-platform usage while watching TV. Nielsen also showed that roughly 40 percent of U.S. tablet and smartphone users engaged mobile devices daily while watching TV.

These so-called experts write so many posts on the untimely demise of traditional media because they need controversy and "hot" topics, but all they really want is to drive traffic to their website or blog. I often say that experts are charging people for their lack of knowledge. While we agree that social media may be the future, it is still not an exact science. Social media has existed since the first human being set foot on earth; in the past, though, we simply referred to it as creating tribes. Today we can connect globally online, but we're still just looking for our tribe. Seth Godin, in his book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, points out that we need everyday individuals who can connect and lead groups of people around ideas -- today's social media influencers. Whereas before we only had a one-way communication flow from brands to consumers, social media has now helped open up communication to the masses.

It May Be Getting Older, But It's Not Dead Yet

I'm not saying traditional media doesn't have problems -- even social media has problems -- but we need to understand these problems so we can create a new foundation for communication going forward. The majority of companies, brands and small businesses believe that marketing is an all-powerful god but they don't realize that the marketing tactics they use are broken and have been out of date for at least twenty years. In another work, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin states, "The traditional approaches to marketing are now obsolete. One hundred years of marketing thought are gone. Alternative approaches aren't novelty -- they are all we have left."

Traditional media is not working as well as it once did because companies, brand, and small businesses are crafting strategies on how to compete in their own market, but there is no such thing as a marketing strategy any more. If a brand wants to be successful, it needs to look beyond its existing markets. In the new markets, competition is irrelevant and the rules of the game are yet to be set.

Traditional media has too many messages bombarding us and it all sounds alike. Today's marketing needs more than just getting a message heard. Brands that incorporate traditional media with social media are winning because they know prospects are looking for more than just a message. They want engagement, or they simply will not believe the message.

Klout got a lot of mileage building on the myth that just being heard is important, thus their reliance on claiming that popularity is influence. But their weaknesses are showing because they don't offer any inside understanding of culture or markets. Today's marketers have many new avenues open, but we don't need to abandon the old ones completely. Influence marketing can be incorporated with traditional media to achieve recognition and awareness goals. In order for the new media to work, though, you need to know your network, you need to be familiar with the culture and, you need to be innovative.

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