Is medium still the message?


Since McLuhan times, the concept according to which “the medium is the message” has never stopped to go along generations of communication professionals and students. As a mantra, or a paradox to be disproved at every cost.

In the digital era, however, the concept theorized by McLuhan has gone through an evolution. In a moment when messages pass through a selection and distribution process that is almost exclusively algorithmic (Facebook Edgerank, for example) and not human, then the medium we are considering seems to acquire an objectivity in the users’ eyes that TV, radio and newspapers never reached.

The algorithm which selects what contents to show has no ethic, no side: he does not gamble its reputation in front of a screen, do not answer to the crowd’s criticism, has no name or face and its functioning is not know aside for what can be deduced empirically. At most, he does not perform as it is supposed to, showing irrelevant or old contents.

Is the algorithm then neutral? It’s not of course, being the expression of a well determined and “human, too human” hierarchic view of the world. But, it is undeniable that if a content gets “viral” on social media, that if an article score the first rank on a search engine, its message acquire a plus in value in the eyes of the crowd for the sole fact of having been rewarded by an editorial system.

The more a content is studied to perform in Facebook (for example), the more it tends to become fullypart of it and to lose its characteristics that distinguished the source (the company) from the others.

The proof? The fact that with increasing frequency the sector analysis remember us that Internet users, and not just the young or very young, increasingly rely on Facebook or search engines to inform themselves, read news and entertain themselves, instead that on TV news or newspapers. They do not explicitly mention the Facebook page where they get informed, or the website they visit more often: as if social media or Google were themselves, on the same level that newspapers or TV news, content makers and not just simple distribution channels and the sources of contents had become an amorphous mass of effluents to the great spring of search engines and social media.

The object of every digital communication strategy so must be to create quality contents irrespectively of the platform where they will be distributed on.

The price to pay, if we want to define it as such, is that of an investment – broke down into a first phase and a decreasing second one once you created a virtuous storycrafting system – in the production of quality contents that can be appreciated by the users irrespectively of the  platform where they are experienced, may it be Facebook, Twitter or any other online gatekeeper.

An investment, that in the production of quality contents, that on a medium-long span allows the company to distinguish itself from competitor and most of all to not rely on the highs and lows of a medium or another.

The alternative is that of contributing once more to the economic and cultural success of new media without getting anything back aside from an ephemeral record of “likes”.

In the digital era, company must equip themselves with strategies and “key performance indicators” to develop coherent and credible contents not just for algorithms but mostly for their public: the message must go back to being the company itself and not its alter ego in the form of a Facebook page. Or Facebook itself.