The Changing Role of Traditional Media

Darrian Watts

January 22, 2013

You may have noticed the iconic magazine, Newsweek, publish its #LastPrintIssue in December 2012. Many called this another white flag raised by a traditional organization in the face of social media. The cover is ironic, to be sure, but to me the hashtag shout-out signals a transition to better, faster content. Traditional media isn’t finished–it’s just different.

Adapt or Go Extinct

If media were a species, relevance would be the key to survival. No media will thrive if it talks where no one is listening. The explosion of mobile and tablet-based technology should cause marketers, journalists and developers to require their latest project to be mobile-friendly. Apply the mounds of knowledge you have about your vertical and customers to new media opportunities. How can your digital efforts improve? What technology trend can you leverage in order to thrive?

Let’s take a look at an example, which is perhaps one of the most traditional disciplines of all, newspaper. USA Today recently rebranded making both their print and digital presence more visually compelling and advertiser-friendly. Photographs and storytelling have never been more prominent in their print edition, while the website features horizontal story scroll and interactive weather reporting. According to Gannette Co. Inc, the media parent company of USA Today, the newspaper saw digital revenue up 69.7 percent and unique visitors to USA Today’s mobile sites skyrocket to 79 percent above traffic from the previous year. Adapting is worth it, if you do it right.

Be Complementary, Not Complimentary

USA Today thought long and hard about how to make their services more interactive, engaging and revenue generating. The details of the transition, like the way users scroll or the best way to view digital ads, were not afterthoughts or complimentary features of the new brand; the way traditional and social mediums complement each other is the foundation of the new USA Today.

Also consider making different mediums work for your brand, in addition to complementing one another. Social media is a great place to generate consumer feedback and interaction, but keep in mind that anyone can turn your message upside down in the social space–see the top 11 worst social campaign disasters in 2012. Traditional mediums allow you to say your message your way. When the time is right, turn to social to gather feedback, restructure your message and deliver again.

Traditional and Social Media Will Change, No Matter What

To peg traditional media as the only industry undergoing massive change would be to overlook the reach of the communication revolution. As technology enables us to consume media all the time, we, as users, demand innovation from every arena. We want content to be delivered faster and more accurately, our interfaces need to be more responsive, and the searches we conduct need to be returned with more relevance. That’s because media is a part of every second of our lives, and we’re on an insatiable quest to make the integration better. All media everywhere is changing. It must.