Sorry, Charlie…the new media isn’t broadcast

Broadcast media was very effective in the days when products that had a mass appeal could afford to run commercials designed to reach large audience segments.  It certainly helped that there were limited numbers of TV channels, only local newspapers and limited-wattage radio stations.  As a culture, we shared stories at work the day after watching TV programs designed to appeal to large numbers of us; supported by advertisers who had things to sell like cars, instant coffee, toothpaste, detergent and a credit card that we couldn’t leave home without–before the advent of debit, Smart or loyalty cards.  Commercial taglines and jingles entered the cultural lexicon.  Can you really spell B-O-L-O-G-N-A without singing the jingle? 

As we watch the decline and fall of broadcast media, there are many people who are using the same one-way communication techniques and applying them to social media.  Isn’t this the popular definition of insanity—doing the same things over and over and expecting different results? 

First with the explosion of cable TV channels, then with the widespread use of the internet, niche media was able to reach smaller, target audiences.  Communication became customized in the form of content and commercial messages.  Direct mail turned into opt-in email. Television turned into Hulu.  Newspapers turned into browser homepage headlines.  Radio turned into Pandora. Engagement, individual messages, the long tail and indie…anything…have become popular.  Broadcast and mass market are passé. 

Yet, I’m amazed on Google searches to see the sidebar advertisements that simply take my keyword and plunk it into a template for a company’s ad—no matter how ridiculous the message becomes.  

And I’m even more amazed that companies are trying to broadcast their commercial messages with social media.  Prior to, and following a recent trade show, I watched the hashtag twitter stream for the show, and noticed that the tweets were nearly all outbound messages about what was going to be debuted at the company’s booth, then what a great show the company had. 

I didn’t read a single post asking for feedback.  I saw almost no one retweeting other’s posts, except if their company was mentioned.  There was little insight, information or value.  This “broadcast” mentality of promoting one’s own products is certainly necessary, but not the complete communication picture.  

If broadcast isn’t working for traditional, media what makes you think it will work for social media?  Wasn’t that the point of the shift to the new media—to engage and have a dialog versus a monolog?  

Is your communication stuck in the “on” position for outbound broadcasting?

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    One Comment

    1. Posted March 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Great post Mary, and so true.

      Personally, I consider this kind of broadcast social media another form of spam (and even wrote a bit about it on the Atomicdust blog last week).

      Sure, it is a genuine message, and if I’m following you on Twitter, you can’t exactly say it is unsolicited, but it is really just but a one-way, commercial message. An update or an announcemnt here and there is one thing, but for your entire stream of posts to be 140-character bits like that? Not very effective.

      Like you said, social media is about the engagement, it is about the conversation. It is not just another avenue to broadcast your message to the masses.

      -Danielle, Atomicdust
      Saint Louis, Mo.

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