Digital, Marketing

It’s the Message, not the Medium

I read a great article by Joe Pulizzi today, in which Joe writes that Newsweek‘s decision to move back to a printed version of their magazine represents a “huge opportunity for brands”.

As a self-professed social and digital media advocate, this definitely got my attention. I mean, I know about the effectiveness of direct mail marketing (especially among “Baby Boomers” with high disposable incomes) from my time in the classroom. The value of “traditional” media for marketing purposes has never been lost on me.

Instead, what left me so surprised was that I never thought about the flawed reasoning behind why many people have been so eager to declare print as “dead”. After all, we see it as useless as we tap our smartphones and open up entertainment, news, social, and leisure portals with the click of a button. In the digital age we live in, print seems slow, outdated, clumsy, and worthless. Thus, we quickly dismiss the value of the actual medium itself.

Yet, as we’ve all become digital natives, advertisers and companies have immediately moved with us in lockstep, for better and for worse. Our email inboxes are now flooded with vague offers. Our social media feeds contain an abundance of information, which we’ve grown accustomed to scanning and then discarding, all within seconds. Indeed, what we used to call “non-traditional media” has become second nature to both businesses and consumers.

This is why Newsweek‘s decision might strike you as bizarre. It flies in the face of convention, especially in today’s digital-savvy media industry. Yet, consider that it’s not as if Newsweek is suddenly going to start reporting exclusively on sports now. Much of the attention is on the fact that they are changing their medium, not their content.

It seems to me that with all of the communications channels that we have at our disposal today, many of us are more focused today on how we will say something instead of deciding what we are going to say. Instead, I think we should focus on the message first, then the medium.

After all, it’s easy to get caught up in technological trends, shifts, and what competitors are doing: “Hey, it looks like Corporation X just used Twitter to promote their latest campaign. Maybe we should do that too”. Soon enough, your Twitter feed is clogged with 80 companies running similar promotions, regardless of whether it even makes sense for them to use that method of communication. How many times have you seen this for yourself?

Instead, if you first seek to understand your customer/audience, you’ll be able to craft compelling messaging to get their interest. That’s when you can choose the appropriate channels to communicate with them. Because at the end of the day, whether it’s a Facebook post or a magazine, it doesn’t matter how you choose to say it, if what you say doesn’t matter.


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