“Old” media just sounds mean
• What else can we call it?
– Traditional? Then we’d be passing out pamphlets run
off a Guttenberg or scribed by Monks.
– Dead Tree? But television media is a lot more like
newspapers than “new” media.
• How about…
– Passive Media
• Generally, you are not involved as the media consumer. You
get the information as it is given to you and don’t have much
say. You consume and don't have the opportunity to
engage, discuss, share.
How passive media works:
Media/Source Tells the Story
Someone Consuming Media Finds Out
But if we take the audience out…the media still exists
Ok, maybe not “new” media, either
• It’s not new anymore, and it’s not defined by
the technology. It needs a different distinction
that actually explains what is going on.
• “New” media is online, but let’s break it into
They’re trying…it’s adorable:
Source: The Bivings Report , “The Use of the Internet by America’s Largest Newspapers (2008 Edition)” Dec 18 2008
“The newspaper guild (again, reporters, editors, publishers) can't compete by
adding a few blogs here, blogging up coverage over there, and setting up
‘comment’ sections. If newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters don't produce
spectacular news coverage no blogger can match, they have no right to
-Jack Shafer, Slate, Jan 28 2006
What guides passive media theory?
• Media controls the information (Agenda
– …but not necessarily how we react (Magic Bullet)
• Media tends to be told from the perspective
of the majority (Hegemony Theory)
…throw it out the window
Source: Flickr user phrenologist
Remember, This is Passive Media:
Many Many Many
Everyone gets the same information because the source is so huge.
It’s the limitations of passive media that create agenda setting.
What about here?
To be a source, you
have to be one of Source/Many
Why does this work?
Let’s play a quick
Source: Flickr user MangoPOPTART
The Birthday Paradox
• The probability of two people out of 57 having
the same birthday is over 99 percent.
– You probably thought about this problem from an
• The probability of you having the same birthday as one
of those other 56 people is 15 percent.
• What does this have to do with participatory
– This same limitation affects passive media
Media For Masses vs. Media For You
• Traditional media has to appeal to a broad
– One of the biggest content limitations is that it
can’t be too specific (yes, even cable).
• Your birthday is an individual trait that is one
out of 365 possibilities. With 364 ways to be
wrong, traditional media can’t take a chance
to be so customized.
…but you can take that chance.
This is you. You have
chosen to be a part
of this conversation.
Actually, it looks more like this:
Active media is a choice
• It’s a declaration of the media you want – you
have made the choice of the agenda of the
– It’s set by you when you pick where and to whom
you are going to talk.
The good news is that
there are many places to
join your conversation.
Power Law Distribution
Source: Future Perfect Publishing
“The Long Tail” in media
Original Picture by Hay Kranen / PD
Active media isn’t told from the
perspective of the hierarchy
YOU tell it from
YOUR perspective to
the people YOU
want to talk.
Source: Flickr user blue_ocean_powder
Things have changed
• A century’s worth of traditional
media theory has been based
on the idea that we act as an
• You don’t just consume
media anymore – you are
part of it.
…we are not driving a car, with gas, brakes,
reverse and a lot of choice as to route. We
are steering a kayak, pushed rapidly and
monotonically down a route determined by
the environment. We have a (very small)
degree of control over our course in this
particular stretch of river, and that control
does not extend to being able to reverse,
stop, or even significantly alter the
direction we're moving in.
-C. Shirky, Many to Many, Jan 22 2005
Photo: Flickr user visbeek
(cc) Dave Levy 2009
Dave Levy is an Account Executive on Edelman’s Digital Public Affairs team in Washington,
DC. Dave came to Edelman in 2007 after he received a master’s degree in public relations at
Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He has a deep
background in digital media research and assisted, designed and wrote studies on the effects
of interactive media as an undergraduate at Boston College. Dave has also written extensively
on how mobile communication can be used as a vehicle for grassroots and public affairs
advocacy, as well as the impact of real-time mobile communication on mainstream media
during major events or disasters. A self-proclaimed geek, he blogs often about the social
aspects of social media at Most Likely To Die Alone.