Established v. Disruptive Media

by Richard C. Stimac

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportun...

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportunity, Challenge, Responsibility (Photo credit: Fräulein Schiller)

Established v. Disruptive Media


Read through the current literature or just sit around and chat with marketers, and you’ll hear about traditional versus electronic media. Traditional media contain newspapers, radio, TV, and the like. Electronic? The Internet, the Web, mobile devices, and whatever new technologies loom on the horizon.


This bipolar categorization creates confusion. Marketers say things like, “We have to augment traditional media with new electronic media.” Or,  “Businesses are pulling back from traditional media and moving dollars to electronic media.”


Some even use the terms Old or Legacy Media for the pre-Web age (1989, I’m guessing) and New Media for anything that after.


The problem with this schism is that it creates a mental map separating the “traditional” from “electronic” media when in fact they are both simply media. A better categorization is established media versus disruptive media in the Schumpeterian sense.


In the 1990s, the Web became a disruptive media. I worked at a telecomm company at the time. One of the big wigs loved to talk about how many Trimline phones the company had sold. The fact that the company’s brand new Web site had collected hundreds of unanswered customer emails was lost on him. Or that the Web site was nothing more than an electronic brochure.


The Web simply confused him. Who can blame him? Even email was a novelty back then


Now, what company doesn’t have a well-functioning Web customer care center? The Web is now an established medium. Marketers go through their check list: newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, Web, etc.


One of the current disruptive medium is mobile. Some are even declaring the Web dead, or at least moribund. We should not ask ourselves what is new, novel, hot, cutting-edge, but what new medium confuses us, makes what we thought we knew something we’re no longer confident of. Media are categorized into established and disruptive.


Don’t ask what’s new. Ask what’s destroying what you thought was solid.