Is Medium the Message?

Message from a bottleThe phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan, "The medium is the message", meant that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived#.

[Do stop sending me those press releases already.]

Our outlook, attitudes, how we relate to the world are changed by the things with which we choose to surround ourselves. McLuhan maintained that all media are an extension of human faculty –- physical or mental.

Several years ago, in the (still) early days of blogging, we were talking about the semantic Web as the answer to content discovery and a bunch of other interesting possibilities like:

  • dealing with data
  • growth of networks
  • end of selling as pitches (see reference to no press releases)
  • opt-in email (two scoops of this one, please)
  • dealing with bandwidth (especially of the human kind)

The announcement by @ev that team Obvious has come up with a new Medium (that's the name of the platform) sparked interest.

Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab has done a fine job of bubbling up some questions and points about it. Mechanically, as he says, Medium has been described as “a cross between Tumblr and Pinterest.”

Another excellent observation from the article about the tension between individual publisher and organizations:

Personal publishing is like voting. In theory, it’s the very definition of empowerment. In reality, it’s an excellent way for your personal shout to be cancelled out by someone else’s shout.

On a very first blush, Medium slots authorship in second place — a silver medal for the creator, a gold one for the topic. As @ev says in the official launch post:

Posting on Medium (not yet open to everyone) is elegant and easy, and you can do so without the burden of becoming a blogger or worrying about developing an audience. All posts are organized into “collections,” which are defined by a theme and a template.

Without the burden of making a commitment. 

Which prompted me to ask: is Medium the message (itself)?

There is a reason why I stuck with this blog over the years. Because I see it as a creative outlet as in creating. Yes, I do have a Pinterest account for the fun stuff, compositions of beautiful spaces and things (at least to me).

The most intriguing part Benton addresses is at the very end. When he says, there will be new ways to structure content discovery that go beyond branding authorship and recommendation engines.

I don't know about you. I do read people, not content. Sure, discovery happens through writing. Then I follow the individual — not because they are popular, because they are good (for me).

And yet, I thought about something else I wrote a long time ago: the messenger isn't the message. The messenger isn't the message, because the conduit never addresses a need. Message relevance still boils down to buyer, seller, and value proposition.

I'm curious: where do you see this one going?



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.

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