From the pictographs of primitive cave dwellers to tribal drums beating warnings of dangers over distant hills to the Pony Express racing through a newly-developing country, the human desire to be heard stretches across the millennium. The need to know, to share, to speak the truth, and to understand what lies ahead transcends culture, language, and age. Our human brains are literally hard-wired to make sense of the world through stories.
While this primal impulse to communicate is unrelenting, the shifting tectonic plates of information delivery have thrown "traditional" media off balance. Where once our eternal quest to share ideas gave birth to poetry readings, museums, and music festivals, fourteen years into the 21st Century our most valued new companies strive to make communication instant and easily accessible - What's App, Twitter, Snapchat, Apple, and Instagram. I can sit in my living room in Manhattan and embrace holiday cheer with my cousins in Argentina via Skype. My husband can be photographing in Macedonia and chat with our son at Syracuse University about his politics paper through FaceTime. Beyond that, dozens of my closest friends can hold a virtual reunion on Google Hangout.
Many of the world's most vexing problems are being solved by global citizens and fanciful dreams of future products and projects are getting funded by regular people through crowdsourcing. Our lives are in our pockets waiting to be snapped, videotaped, recorded, texted, scheduled and most crucially shared with our closest virtual friends, real families, and the wider community. We just might be in the most golden age of communications.
Those not plunging into the brave new world on our doorstep risk being left behind because the disruptions that have gripped us so tightly will certainly keep coming. So, what does the new normal mean for traditional media? When television came along over 70 years ago, pundits of the day wrote radio's obituary. While, radio is still here, so are Pandora, iTunes, and Spotify. With the increasing urgency of environmental protection, many wonder whether we can still afford paper media products like newspapers, magazines, and books. Do we need a newsstand when we can create our own through Flipboard? If American youth trust digitally born and bred Vice and Vox, what happens to Vogue and Vanity Fair? Media that delivers communications when, where, and how consumers want it, will win.
Journalist Kara Swisher, who started in the mailroom of the Washington Post, recently said that "traditional media people don't see how bad it's really going to get" and that journalists need to become entrepreneurs to survive. Is Swisher right that many traditional newspaper executives just don't get the internet? Or are print entities adroitly stretching their brands into new areas that fit into the digital age?
In my roles as Content Director for media agency Maxus, Adjunct Digital Content Instructor at New York University, and Vice President of Programming for New York Women in Communications (NYWICI), these issues are of utmost importance. The communications industry as a whole needs to navigate the brilliant influx of choices that allow us to connect and engage with our audiences in meaningful ways that can touch them wherever they roam. Perhaps they should take a page from Upworthy's spectacular success and look at emotion as the crucial x-factor in communicating complex and important stories. Whether your job is to predict, to find, or to follow trends, telling stories that reach people's hearts will always be key.
So, embrace change, be flexible, and adapt rapidly to stay connected and succeed as the shifting sands of media disrupt everything in its wake.
This article is a part of a series exploring communications and media trends in honor of the inaugural Communications Week. Follow @CommsWeekNY on Twitter for more information.
Post by Lori Greene (@Lorip1025) is Senior Partner Director of Content at Maxus, Vice President of Programming at NYWICI, a passionate consumer of digital content and a teacher/lecturer on content marketing and social media.