Emerging media under attack

(iStock)In the past two months, I’ve heard a fair bit of buzzing along the lines of “when are media no longer emerging, but emerged?”  Or “is xyz technology really ‘new’?”  And to all those asking this question, I have only one thing to say: You’re right.

In many cases, the things we call emerging media are long standing institutions.  Interactive TV has been around in some form or another longer than I have.  I don’t refer to myself as an emerging human, so why should we talk about Interactive TV as emerging media?  Really, we’re just talking about evolving media.

Considering this idea further has some interesting connotations.  If “emerging media” is actually just “evolving media,” then it stands to reason that there is no use in the differentiation of “traditional” when discussing media.

Continuing on the logic train, one must wonder – if what we call “emerging media” is just the evolving nature of what we call “traditional media,” then “traditional marketers” that don’t keep up with the newest trends and behavior are, in a word, remiss.

But that is an unfair accusation. It is ludicrous to expect “traditional” marketers to be experts on “emerging” media.  The two worlds are vastly different, requiring extremely separate approaches.  Where one is institutionalized, the other is in constant chaos and redefinition.  Where one can focus in on efficiency, the other has to first address viability.  Each requires entirely different skill sets.  As “emerging” becomes institutionalized, it then naturally fits “traditional” skills and workflows.  But while a medium resembles the Wild West, it’d be ridiculous to approach with a “traditional” mindset.

The “evolving” concept breaks down further when considering the trend of consolidation.  If online video is an evolutionary arm of television, what about mobile video?  Is that an evolution of mobile, or of television?  And while mobile may be an evolution of the telephone, it’s come a long way from the rotary.

So whatever one wants to call it, there is a need to identify “emerging” as separate from “traditional.”  “Emerging Media” might not be the best term, but it is one that we’re used to, and it’s much less of a mouthful than “evolving strains of established media institutions which continue to exist in a mercurial state.”  When a better term comes along, I’ll adapt.  But until then, I plan on continuing to use “emerging media,” and suggest others do as well.