by Suresh Acharya
Is online the ultimate media of the world? Are the other media in saturation and declining now? Ask Marshall McLuhan. The medium is the message is a phrase coined by McLuhan 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.
The phrase was introduced in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. People did believe him for some time. But he was wrong. Print media didn't go away and the mushrooming growth of radio wasn't challenged.
Even in developing countries, his claim did not exist for so long. But now, online is challenging print, and broadcast media! But does that challenge mean the end of traditional media?
"We break the news online and explain it in the newspaper." That was the explanation of how online and print exists together according to the editor of The Columbus Dispatch, Benjamin J. Marrison. And it was not only the answer from the Dispatch, but also what we heard at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both are facing the same fate. They are losing audience and advertisements as well. A newspaper having a history of more than a century is being challenged by the very new media. Why do newspapers face this challenge? Is the McLuhan correct here at least on online?
The answer is it is relative not an absolute! In the developed countries because of high tech access to all, most traditional media including radio and television are facing such trouble. Many news consumers have gone to online, especially for a quick update. But the question is: are the audiences satisfied with it and its presentation and performance? The answer may be not very positive.
In developing countries, print media are still strong. In Nepal, very few people have access to the online. Broadband is only in very limited cities. Service is slow, but still, most of the broadsheet dailies have online editions. Online competes for breaking news, but it just provides information as an eye opener. The next day newspapers present the story in different angle. So print media are more effective and able to give impact to the authorities and the audience. They are longer lasting than the TV or the Radio. Access to TV is also limited due to city centered cable service.
The scenario of developed countries is obviously different not only in terms of access but the interest. Many Americans claim to have no time to read in detail or find it inconvenient to buy or subscribe and keep the paper handy. They are using their smart phones like Blackberry or iPhone.
It is not just a question of financial survivability, but the print media has less charm and glamor, not only to the audience but also to some media workers as well. So print has to stop the day-to-day events and go to in-depth stories. They must change the pattern of content and presentation to compete with technologically born challenge. Even the developing countries media have start to think about these things.