The medium and the message

You may remember the famous line by Marshall McLuhan:

The medium is the message.

What does that mean? According to Wikipedia:

meaning 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.

All that is somewhat esoteric…and when McLuhan was writing his observations in 1964,  the new frontier was television.

Television may or may not be on the decline, but we are definitely in a world where the Internet and social media are our mass communication media.

I came across an article by Jeremy Porter, on his blog Jounalistics, entitled “Are Blog Posts Better Than Press Releases?” Now, I am a huge fan of blogging and blogs, but I don’t think blogs are “better” than any other form of communication. However, blogs may be better suited to some types of communication.

In my opinion, there is no hierarchy among the media (this one is better than that one) but rather there is a “right-er” medium for the message. For instance:

  • If your message is short and ephemeral (an observation, a quick update, etc.) use Twitter.
  • If your message is long and requires complicated explanations, use a white paper.
  • If your message is newsworthy, and you want to get out to journalists, use a press release.

Choosing which media to use is your job as a communicator. If you don’t understand the differences between media, then you are going to have a hard time communicating your message to its target audience.

What are your thoughts? Is there a medium that can be used for all messages? Is there a better medium? Let me know in the comments.

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About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

1 thought on “The medium and the message”

  1. Unfortunately, Wikipedia has it very wrong. They’ve published someone’s (the popular) misinterpretation of what Marshall McLuhan meant when he stated (actually as early as 1958) ‘the medium is the message’.
    To understand what that phrase means, your best bet is to turn to ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’ where McLuhan explains (in the beginning of the first chapter):
    “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium– that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”

    Nothing there about the medium affecting the content, or message. He’s saying that the important thing to note about a medium (its message) is not the content it carries, but the effect this medium has on us, on society.

    Respectfully,

    Andrew

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