Feb 20, 2007

Toad McLuhan

Not sure what the significance of this is, but it's dawned on me that we use the 3 main advertising media vehicle of 2007 in very different ways.

PRINT is a solitary medium, in that we generally read to ourselves for our own pleasure. It's a passive medium as well, in that we don't interact with what we're reading except maybe in our imaginations and via letters to the editor.


TELEVISION is a group medium. Now we may watch TV on our own, but it's something that's easily watched and shared with other people. The fact that TV is scheduled also makes it something of a group experience in that say millions of other people are also watching Lost at 10 PM on Wednesdays. Now that part of the shared experience may be lost (no pun intended) as DVRs and time-shifting become more popular, but for things like news and sporting events, the theatrical nature of television (TV of course, being born of theater, not print) makes it more of a group event. Though still a decidedly passive one.

THE INTERNET is, at present, a solitary event. One may chat with and/or interact with other people online, but it's not as if the entire family gathers around the hearth to browse through Brandon's MySpace page together, thus making it a solitary activity. It is, at best, a way to connect with people who aren't there with you, but at the cost of excluding those who are. And while some internet usage is very interactive, there's much that isn't: it's possible to spend hours just reading web pages without ever interacting with anyone.

Now where this all goes is going to be interesting. My personal opinion, to be expanded upon in future posts, is that there will be a merger of TV, print and web experiences, but also a very separate interactive web experience.

So, for example, your Comcast or Cablevision TV service will live online, on a giant "on demand" site where you can access whatever you want, whenever you want. One where networks promote their current offerings the way Hollywood studios promote movies. But once you decide to watch Lost, which you'll be able to do for free if you watch the commercials and for $1.99 if you don't, you'll be able to chat with other viewers or comment on an CBS-sponsored Lost message board. (And of course there will be other, non-official, Lost message boards.)

But what's important here is that the last two options- the chat room and the message board- will be optional. Because if you're watching Lost with your wife and kids, it would be quite anti-social for you to start chatting with strangers in an online chat room, when you should be chatting with your loved ones, who are sitting in the same room.

This is something the Web Evangelicals often forget: that not everyone is a lonely 24 year old, who engages all media on a solo basis. So while the opportunity to interact with virtual humans will remain a popular option with that group, those of us with families and/or large groups of friends will be more likely to interact with the live people sitting in the family room with us. Creating an active response to a passive medium.

Hope that wasn't too Teddy K for you all. I'll have to re-read it in the AM to see if it still makes sense ;)

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