Old Vs. New Media: The Future Is A Feedback Loop

March 28, 2012 8:22 pm

Originally published on Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers  | 03.03.2010

There is a long and fairly pointless war being fought between the forces of old media and the forces of new media.

Many new media true believers publicly talk about old media as being “over.” This, despite the fact that even the most aggressive forecasts say interactive marketing will account for 21% of all marketing spending by 2015.

Feedback Loop

I don’t think the future is all about the 21%, or about the 79%, or about which side wins.

I think the future is about the feedback loop between traditional and digital communications.

But before I get into that, some perspective may be helpful.

One DinosaurIs 3x the Projected Size Of The Whole Next Big Thing

Forrester’s forecast says social media will hit $3 billion. Mobile will pass $1 billion. The echo chamber Tweeted yet again about the final death rattle of traditional media.

We’ve been trying to bury old media forever, but like Abe Vigoda, it stubbornly refuses to stay dead.

Take CBS. It has a ton of quaint antiquarian media like TV, radio stations and billboards.

But even despite a recent profit plunge of 57%, the market cap for CBS – and remember I’m talking about CBS alone – is $8.78 billion. Read that again and let it sink it: a single “old media” company is worth almost three times the projected future spending for the entire social media industry.

It doesn’t mean social media isn’t important, or that the profit plunge at CBS isn’t significant. Both are.

But this is not a zero-sum story, at all.

Is It Time To Challenge The Zero-Sum Narrative?

The unquestioned narrative about media is zero-sum. For digital to win, TV must lose. Here is the standard narrative in a nutshell.

1. TV is less and less effective every day. It’s time to panic. And there are Terminators on the loose everywhere. “Watch out! The consumer has a remote control/VCR/DVR/TiVo/iPad/etc.!”

2. Interactive and especially social media are the future. The consumer is in control. Abandon your brand now and run for the hills!

3. Ideas like the Pepsi “Refresh” Project prove TV is dead (what kind of idiot would waste money on a Super Bowl TV spot anymore?) and social media has permanently taken over TV’s place on the throne.

A Different POV: The Future Is A Feedback Loop

Here’s an alternative way of looking at things that I think is both more accurate and more useful:

1. TV, while less effective than in 1960, remains astonishingly powerful. As Clay Shirky notes, “Broadcast TV can charge higher prices for fewer households because the mass marketers simply have nowhere else to go… There isn’t another medium that offers the option of reaching 10 million households at the same time with a single ad.”

2. Old media and interactive not only can co-exist, they are now utterly interdependent. People Twitter about what they saw on TV. Hollywood makes a TV series from Twitter sensation “Sh*t My Dad Says.” The future isn’t one side wins and the other loses. The future is a feedback loop.

3. Pepsi “Refresh” isn’t an indictment of Super Bowl ads and a triumph for social media. Far from it. Rather, it’s a brilliant example of how marketers can use the interdependence of old and new media to create something more powerful than either side could accomplish on its own.

ViewMedia Or DoMedia?

It’s time to get past thinking of media as being either old or new.

I think of media as “view” or “do.” TV is a “view” medium: generally, we sit back and hope to be entertained. Digital is a “do” medium: generally, we’re trying to get something done.

Whether Pepsi uses those words internally, they’re clearly thinking and executing along the same lines. They ran TV to generate awareness in “view” mode and then turned to digital to activate that in “do” mode.

Like the Obama campaign, they turned the feedback loop to their advantage.

I give Pepsi’s Director of Social Media B. Bonin Bough high marks for escaping the trap of thinking only about the silo of social media and really understanding how the total feedback loop works.

Happy Interdependence Day

Forget old media and new media, and stop pitting one vs. the other.

Start thinking about how you can use the feedback loop to make 1+1 equal 11.

Photo Credit: Akshay Moon (Creative Commons)


  • Great blog, love the image. I was wondering if we could get permission to use your image for a training slide deck or if you could direct me to the source of the image?


Leave a reply