Coined by Marshall McLuhan, the phrase “the medium is the message” is a staple in communications 101 courses. The idea is that the way a message is transmitted plays an integral role in how the message will be perceived now and in the future – how news is reported reflects societal changes like a mirror, and may even be causing some of those changes.
Twitter is a great example of McLuhan’s concept in action. From the spread of breaking news to the mass organization of protests, Twitter epitomizes instantaneous, dynamic communication. It’s an incredible tool, and there is no doubt it has affected how we expect, read and analyze news. Think about it: When you hear about something, do you seek out a television to learn more, or do you use your phone to check the facts online?
Or maybe you even heard about the late-breaking news on Twitter first.
Twitter co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone are seeking to add a new chapter to our history of communication with the launch of Medium, a collaborative publishing platform launched early last week. Currently closed to contributors outside a select group of authors, Medium combines the idea of topic-area “collections” of Pinterest with the memoir-feel of McSweeney’s or a very good blog.
In an introductory post, Williams writes:
[W]e’re re-imagining publishing in an attempt to make an evolutionary leap, based on everything we’ve learned in the last 13 years and the needs of today’s world.
The idea is that the Internet is still using design elements and styles from print when it should be developing entirely new ways to convey information. Williams and Stone hope that Medium will allow visitors to choose their level of participation, to increase article readership by merit, and to access, contribute and share good content more easily using the device of their choosing.
Medium may be the next step in self-publishing, unleashing a new tool into the hands of citizen journalists. At the moment, it is an experiment. We have yet to see if it will take, start new trend or affect reporting in the way sister site Twitter has. Medium may never be more than a niche social network.
But isn’t that what they said about Twitter in 2007?