Old Media Meets New

By the time the media industry caught up with the profound changes brought on by the World Wide Web, it was late in the game and they were forced to play catch-up with lean web-native startups that understand the delivery channel much better than they do.

The main issue was (and remains) that traditional media companies viewed the web as a separate channel. However, over the last several months, I've noticed a promising trend in which old media-new media hybrids are driving interest in content in new and exciting ways. When you mix old media delivery methods with new ones-and it hits just right-magic can happen.

Let me define terms: Old media is the publisher that delivers your newspaper or magazine in a physical package, or it could be a TV studio or a record company. New media is a blogger or an individual producing and publishing a YouTube video that lives online in a digital package. Where these paths converge, media companies just may find their missing mass audience.

This idea hit me when I heard about a 12-year-old boy named Greyson Chance, who made a YouTube video of himself singing Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" while playing the piano. For a kid, his video performed well: He scored more than 10,000 views. But magic happened when the video came to the attention of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who invited him to appear on her show. After his appearance, the number of video views soared to more than 30 million. What's more, DeGeneres was so impressed that she started a record label and signed Chance as her first artist.

It got me thinking about the power of multiple channels and how old media and new media can mix and match to create massive audiences in ways that just weren't possible prior to the internet. In fact, the Chance example shows that the two aren't really separate channels at all, but multiple channels feeding on one another to create an audience-development machine.

This idea was still percolating when I began reading a preview copy of fellow EContent contributing editor David Meerman Scott's upcoming book Real-Time Marketing & PR (Wiley, November 2010). When I read his story of Canadian musician Dave Carroll, who used a YouTube video as a launching pad for a lengthy dispute he was having with United Airlines (whose baggage handlers had broken Carroll's guitar and refused to pay for it to be fixed), it hit me like a veritable freight train: This melding of old and new media really works.

Read Scott's book for the full story, but suffice it to say, Carroll wrote a song called "United Breaks Guitars" and put it up on YouTube. Soon, he was being interviewed by "old media" such as FOX News, CBS's The Early Show, and CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. With each appearance, the views of his YouTube video shot up.

The similarities between Carroll's story and that of young Chance are uncanny. They created simple YouTube videos, which TV and print publications picked up on, which triggered massive online views. Both videos started slow and reached a peak that most would consider good. However, when the old media caught wind of these new media examples, their videos (and careers) took off in ways nobody would have ever expected.

There's a lot that old media can learn from these stories. First of all, the internet is not a separate channel. It's a partner channel that has a symbiotic relationship with an offline channel such as print or television. Thus, when you combine the reach of TV, newspapers, and magazines with the viral nature of the internet, you can generate huge online audiences, which could translate into an advertising bonanza.

Years ago when media companies began to combine to include different types of media, many were troubled by this approach because it consolidated too much power in the hands of too few. Those concerns certainly still exist, but the internet has changed the dynamics so that these different entities-whether they are part of the same corporation or not-can begin to influence each other in exciting ways, just as they did for Chance and Carroll.

If old media companies want to succeed moving forward, they need to examine stories like these and make greater efforts to understand how to combine traditional and emerging delivery channels and how they can feed off of one another. Separately, they are powerful in their own right, but together they could deliver the audience wallop and advertising bounty that media companies are in the market for.