Dr. Frank Preston
My lovely wife, who is much smarter than me, points out that “New Media” is not media at all. It is more or less “media strategy.” She is a sharp cookie. I definitely married up!
I like the simple definition for New Media that states: New media refers to on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, and creative participation.” The phrase interactive user feedback is a central concept that differentiates New Media from broadcast, internet, or oratorical media.
New media is about being customer-centric, or in our case, seeker centric. In the past, content was controlled by the media developer, but now content is controlled by the user’s choice. In other words, people will search for content instead of passively consuming media that are fed to them. The seeker’s media experience is an essential element in a communication strategy. If your content is not relevant to their needs, then the seeker will simply “tune you out.”
The research theory that underpins this is what is called the use and gratifications model. This theory states that people are limited by both cognitive capacity and time and therefore will only consume media that fits their needs in their timeframe. Since consumers have a limited attention span, then they quickly forget the message if it is not immediately applicable to them. This is what is called “recency and regency” (recent time and importance) of a media message.
By nature, New Media is data-driven. Every step in the process needs to be measured and evaluated. If a person “hits” on your media (listens, buys, tunes in, lands on your page, goes to your Facebook, etc.) it is because they want to. Unlike the Athenians in Acts 17:21, nobody is sitting around bored trolling web sites to find “what is new and cool.”
Here is the big lesson here. The positive flip side to this problem is that if someone consumes your media, it is because they are interested. Remember Paul going to the temple to find seekers? Seekers will identify themselves by consuming your media – that is, if it meets their need (remember the Fishbein model on beliefs and intention). As a result, you need to identify signifiers that they consumed your media. Why? You need to measure who spent how much time on what part of your message. Remember, New Media is data-driven.
This often requires a major paradigm shift for us – we are no longer pushing out a message, but we are pulling in people (identifying them) who have a need that they think our message can satisfy. To restate this: New Media is seeker centric, not program centric. No longer do we have good news to tell, but we are now helping people whom God is calling to continue along their pathway of conversion. They are in control, not us, but we are helping them by rolling out the carpet as they walk down the aisle.
Take a breath for a minute. This is huge. Currently, I am aware of many media organizations, Christian and otherwise, who are really struggling with this concept. Seekers are in control, not us. People self identify but are not persuaded. This is a game-changer in media strategy.
Many organizations ignore this innovation shift to their peril. This was what James Engel observed when he noted that Christian media strategies need to change. And since many have not changed, they are rapidly becoming obsolete.
This is an excerpt from an article by Frank Preston, “#7 New Media – A Paradigm Shift” in Media2Movements. Mr. Preston’s research and theories are used in our course, Foundations of Media to Movements.