Doctor SpinMedia & PsychologyCommunication TheoriesMedia Logic is Dead, Long Live Media Logic

Media Logic is Dead, Long Live Media Logic

We need a new playbook for a digital-first landscape.

Media logic is dead… at least in its traditional form.

This article will demonstrate how a new, networked media logic replaces old media logic.

What does this mean for us PR professionals?

Having worked as a PR professional in the intersection between traditional and digital media since 2005, I want to highlight how we must embrace change — or perish as a profession.

Adapt or die.

Here we go:

Table of Contents

    A Brave New Digital World

    The media logic we know might be dead, but it’s quickly being replaced by new logic. We must speed up our digital transformation processes — or risk PR going out of style.

    The new online media logic is potentially even more potent than the traditional mass-media logic we’ve grown accustomed to.

    Everyone with internet access is several steps closer to real mass influence — all the while, special interests will be able to circumvent traditional gatekeepers and speak directly to their sometimes massive audiences.

    In such a digital-first world, racing towards it, we must be proactive and always stay ahead of fast-paced developments.

    What is Media Logic?

    As technology shifts to digital and news cycles become shorter, journalists might begin to favour news stories that journalists can produce faster and faster.

    Contrary to popular belief, media logic is not one single theory. Instead, it’s a collection of different theories around how media works aside from the perfect idea of how it should work.

    One way to illustrate this discrepancy is to consider three central aspects of media; production, distribution, and media use:

    Media logic.
    The dimensions of media logic (Esser 2013:173).

    For example, a national newspaper should ideally produce news reports from all parts of the country — that’s how it should work.

    However, due to commercial imperatives, new distribution models, and changes in consumer behaviours, the newspaper might lean towards producing journalism closer to where the reporters work, where most paying readers live and rely more heavily on click-baiting.

    Media Logic and Network Effects

    In a mass media-centric society, there are few senders and many recipients. Hence, the senders’ agenda will affect many.

    In a network-centric society, we are all senders and recipients simultaneously. Marshall McLuhan stated the idea that the media tends to amplify the human body; the telephone is an amplification of your ears, and a notebook is an amplification of your memory.

    Marshall McLuhan - The Medium is the Message
    Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980).

    Networked media displaces human-to-human relations and group dynamics across time and distance in a way that we can’t even begin to see the full extent of.

    There are various examples of why we must update the traditional thinking around media works. And even more important, is there such a thing as an “ideal” state for networked media?

    Services like Google and Facebook are designed to amplify word-of-mouth mechanics, but can virality (effect) ever replace newsworthiness (idea) without something essential getting lost along the way?

    The media landscape has shifted from being engineered and automated. Today’s media landscape is an algorithmic organism presenting us with many social media issues.

    With all of this in mind, we might just be doomed to a variation of a Postman-Esque dystopia (see also How Social Media Divides Us) where we slowly stimulate ourselves to death.

    I don’t think so. We have encountered significant media shifts before, and even though these shifts fundamentally changed how our society works, we survived and adapted.

    The Future of PR: Online Influence

    We need to claim the death of media logic — at least as we know it. We must harness the differences between traditional media logic and network media logic.

    There should also be room for future PR professionals in this brave new world.

    When Brian Solis published Putting the public back into public relations in 2009, it encapsulated the PR zeitgeist that big data and communicative behaviours would increase the relevance and importance of our profession.

    And the media landscape of today sure has room for talented communication professionals.

    Journalists and politicians alike are desperately blaming technology. Governments are pushing tech giants to censor speech. Silent miners and mass media tycoons have confused the selfie generation. And a lot of people are having difficulties coping with social media angst.

    But to make ourselves useful, we must educate ourselves as professionals and media consumers and producers.

    Since traditional media logic is mass media-centric, its principles have been rendered useless for those of us looking to harness the power of the social web.

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)


    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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