If, in 1967, the medium was the message, what is it now?

"The personal and social consequences of any medium result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology"

An observation from Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Message first published in 1967.

Then was a much simpler time for media. A monochrome dominated world.
The idea that the power of a message could be influenced by the context of its presentation made sense, and was accepted.

Television was the new medium of the day. Society was changing, established world order shifting as the baby boomers challenged the attitudes of the old, post war hierarchy. Television made a significant contribution in challenging the cultural status quo in a time of dramatic social upheaval.

Since then, an alternative media dimension has developed, driven by affordable new technology and the digitisation of content through the internet, providing a massive catalyst for personal and social consequences, at a global and local level.

The old definitions of media are now too loose to be meaningful.
For example, television referred to a channel or device or a medium.
Now "television" can be consumed via big screen or small screen, mobile and computers, watched live, paused or catch up and on demand. The same goes for film, radio and print.
New genres have been introduced with social and search.
Posters have changed, no longer disembodied copy, digitised they provide opportunity for location and time relevant messaging.

It's time for a redefinition of what we mean by the term media.

Media is the content interface supplied via film, video, audio-visual, audio or the written word.
It contains the message and can be distributed multi-channel, and consumed multi-format via a multiplicity of devices.

Channels are means of content delivery.
Devices are means of content consumption.
Formats are means of content presentation.

We are concerned with how media presents a conduit for advertising.
Advertising contributes to culture through content (along with editorial, opinion, views, news and announcements) with commercial intent. Blurred lines between editorial and advertising, of a varied quality, introduce complementary commercial formats of native, sponsored and advertiser produced content across channels in addition to advertisements.

Advertising is strictly one way messaging (not pure communication) creating its own truths via brand narrative as a series of signs, sources of information from which consumers create their own versions of reality, relative to selected identity. This applies to both pre and post digital media

However, pre-digital channels message differently to post digital.
For example, through core readership, linear viewing and listening, or the occasion of the cinema visit, pre-digital audiences absorb the context of the mode of delivery, the medium as the message, as a receptive audience. Pre-digital media consumption provides a unique messaging ability to
establish differentials, a necessity for brand propositions. Pre-digital media provides for symbolic exchange value, intellectual stimulation through ideas, opinion and identity reference points.

Post digital channels, through sheer proliferation, deliver a diluted form of communication.

“It is information, in the sense of data processing, that will put an end to, that is already putting an end to the reign of advertising. That is what inspires fear, and what is thrilling. The “thrill” of advertising has been displaced onto computers and onto the miniaturization of everyday life by computer science.” J. Baudrillard. 1981.

Post-digital media offers no fixed reference points through standardised formats or discourse, only multiple access opportunities, where consumers become integrated feedback, generating a contemporary horoscope for brand marketers, working on the false assumption that past actions dictate future actions. As digital expands, it loses value and the language of advertising, once powerful pre-digital, is now diminished and displaced by data processing. Dilution of the message becomes inevitable, in turn feeding a vicious circle of increased volumes of meaningless messaging trying to recapture lost power of narrative.

Opportunities for brand influence now become data collection moments, offering reduced leverage for creating brand propositions through difference. As the market progressively investigates the application of programmatic trading for all media, audiences become data feeds for a simulation model of commercial imperative. Sound familiar? Basically a working example of humans as a knowledge/power source, albeit for machine learning, instead of the dystopian reality behind The Matrix. Audiences transformed into aggregation fodder via valueless content.

Now, the medium is bait. The message vanishes, replaced by process of past actions, anticipating future action by proxy.