Tuesday, June 2, 2009
People Are The Medium
By Joe Marchese
It has been some time since Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase "The medium is the message." What McLuhan meant is well stated in the Wikipedia entry: "...the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived." Today's successful marketers are taking into consideration McLuhan's statement and combining it with a new media fact: People are the medium.
Since long before "You" was named person of the year by Time magazine, people have been increasingly taking on the role of content producers, curators and distributors. Nielsen just released a report that found "total minutes spent on Facebook increased nearly 700 percent year-over-year, growing from 1.7 billion minutes in April 2008 to 13.9 billion in April 2009..."
One word: Wow. In all that time spent on Facebook, you know what people were doing? Consuming content created by other people. If marketers want to be a part of all those billions of minutes, then they have to realize that people are the medium they need to distribute their message through.
Take a second and consider what it means that people are the medium. Going back to Wikipedia's explanation of McLuhan's statement, it means that marketers have to expect that their messages will take on attributes of the medium, in this case the people. Success will result in a symbiotic relationship between people and the marketer's message, which will be influenced by the people that distribute it. Or at least it should.
Last week Stephen Baker published a fantastic cover story for Business Week, "Learning, and Profiting, from Online Friendships." While the piece explored most of the current thinking and innovative ways of making money in social media, it seemed to bypass what role the people who have all the "friends" will play in advertising. In my humble opinion, until we have scale, and a solution that respects people as the medium, marketing in social media will remain broken.
How would you apply McLuhan's statement for today's marketers? Drop me a line on Twitter @ www.twitter.com/joemarchese and/or leave a comment below. Last week the conversation here and on Twitter following my column was even more insightful than the original post.
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Joe Marchese is President of socialvibe.
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