Medium? Still Too Small.

The following was originally posted in October of 2005. In the intervening eight years, not much has changed beyond marketers swapping out the term "internet" and swapping in "digital." All the varied digitally-enabled marketing channels are still lumped together in an intellectual bucket that's just too small. See if you agree.

Say it with's cathartic. All together now:


At first blush this statement may seem both superflous and semantic, but I assure you there's a very real issue at stake in our little corner of the media landscape. In boardrooms and on marketing flowcharts at budget allocation time, the Internet gets slotted as "a medium." "Here's what we'll spend on TV, Cable, Radio, Magazines and... the Internet." This thinking continues to defy logic and marginalize interactive marketing, while also strapping us into an intellectual straightjacket.

If the Internet is a medium, then electricity is an appliance.

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How to talk about the Internet? How about this: The Internet is a platform on which many different media coexist and interact. Search is a medium. Broadband delivery of video is a medium. On-page web content is a medium. E-mail is a medium. (Swap in social media for what was here in the original post). The point is that they are all fundamentally different from one another in form and substance, and they perform quite different tasks for consumer. And so they should be considered and treated differently by the marketer right from the get-go.

But they are not. When we step outside the bubble of our interactive world, we learn what an absolute dog's breakfast this whole Internet thing is to the marketer. When we say "Internet" it conjures up a bizarre, impressionistic mixture of disjointed technologies, businesses and platforms. Web advertising, organic search marketing, search engine optimization, e-mail, CRM, website development all spew forth... and all must compete in a very crowded space for the marketer's valuable attention, consideration, expertise and budget. I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. That a marketer should have to pull apart this intellectual hairball to begin unlocking — and funding — the possibilities of the Internet is too much to ask.

Think this is still a bit abstract? Then let's go tell the people in broadcast television, radio, mobile phones and tablets that they'll all now be considered one medium called "the broadcast spectrum." Ridiculous? My point exactly.

The Internet is already far too crowded to exist as "a medium." And we haven't even begun to consider what it will look like when TV and other forms of electronic media begin coexisting on the same platform. Abandoning the "medium" label is a must.