In Depth

Column: What’s the Difference Between Old and New Media?

When online video news and review site Tilzy.TV said it would host a Web video upfront to bring together media buyers and the best digital studios in a matchmaking event in June, my first thought was, “It’s about time.”

Not for Tilzy, but for the online video business. Web video, as we know, is one of the few advertising mediums growing this year, with experts such as eMarketer and Magna predicting anywhere from 30% to 45% growth.

Tilzy’s event, the “Onfronts” in New York in June, will showcase Web studios such as MyDamnChannel, Next New Networks and Take180. It’s bound to spark more interest in new media ad investment.

The Onfronts follows several efforts over the years to generate interest in digital platforms during the spring upfront season when the broadcast networks sell most of their television advertising inventory.

Multimedia company RipeTV has hosted upfront presentations, while several video-on-demand programmers have paired up to present their VOD pitches during the prime selling season. This year, NBC is even hosting road shows for the first time to highlight NBC.com and its digital properties to more than 15 agencies including Starcom, Digitas and MediaVest.

But the Tilzy Onfronts also got me thinking about a bigger question than who is going to spend money in which medium. I’m thinking about how we refer to each medium—the words we use.

We refer to online video, mobile video, podcasting, blogs, YouTube, Hulu, viral video, iTunes, full-episode streaming, etc., as “new media.” On the flip side, we often refer to that stuff we watch on the TV set itself as old media. (Of course, we also refer to print as “old media.”)

But when should we stop using the old and new adjectives? When does media just become media, neither old nor new?

Rather then relying on the usual industry suspects, I decided to go to the people for an answer. In a crowd-sourcing effort, I surveyed my Twitter and Facebook friends—some in the media business, some simply avid media consumers—and here’s what they had to say.

J.P. McGovern: “I don't think it's old vs. new. It's disconnected media vs. digital media. Disconnected media has the advantages of often being permanent and often unreliant on electricity, but is outweighed by the advantages that digital media has: searchable, transmissible, global, contextual, duplicable, transformable, sharable, etc.”

Eric Susch: “We need to say ‘old’ and ‘new’ to differentiate those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t. In any case, anything’s better than ‘THE media’ as if it’s all one thing!”

Rick Rodriguez: “Media is media, but there’s establishment media and upstart media. Or traditional and nontraditional. Too many syllables. ‘Old’ and ‘new’ will do.”

Ralph Graves: “As long as there’s a distinction between analog dollars and digital pennies, there’s going to be a divide. Plus I think it also represents a fundamental shift in thinking, both as to how media is presented and how it is consumed.”

Chris Morin: “Personally, I think it is all media. Their differences may be in financial models and accessibility, but those lines are converging. We have seen new media content distributed via old media and old media moving into new-media territory. Ideally, both adopt the best of the other and we move forward into 21st-century media.”

What do you think?