In the early 90's there was a genre of music called alternative. At the time it encompassed what you might call cutting edge music that didn't appeal to the mass market. It wasn't a "sound" but a section of the record store for bands that didn't belong on the top 40 wall. Bands from Sound Garden to 10,000 Maniacs lived together.
Then grunge blew up. And with it so did the genre alternative. Alternative became associated exclusively to the grunge sound. Now 10 to 15 years later if someone says alternative you think Nirvana, Sound Garden, Meat Puppets and the like. Some will even apply it to all hard but not quite metal rock. It's become narrow, defined and no longer the bundle of variety and goodness it once was. For some it's even a stigma. Imaging trying to pitch an 'alternative' act today.
The media we often call "new" or emerging media kind of falls into a similar parallel. At one point it was this collection of assorted activities from guerrilla street level initiatives to eDM, banner ads and other digital treats. Much of what we call new media is by now nearly, if not more than, a decade old. And some things folks call social media new media to give the category a boost, even though it's really an evolution of digital media and has existing in other forms for many years. Study your MacLuanism if you disagree. It's starting to become common practice that all media, when it's good can be social. And all media, when it's bad, can be anti social. But I digress.
Maybe it's time new media rebranded itself. Is new media now a vision of the past? The advertising equivalent of modernism?
It may not be but the term 'new' itself is problematic because inherently new means untested, risky and uncertain. Plus it perpetuates the expectation of what was called 'new' media years ago but is really just now another fairly traditional way of marketing. But it still goes under this label of new as though it is fresh and straight out of R&D. Or at least it does if you manage a multi million or billion dollar ad budget. Is "new" becoming a stigma? Ask a CFO if he wants to buy any new or emerging investment vehicles today. No thanks.
Meanwhile the old stuff proclaimed dead has mutated and evolved quite nicely and the consumption levels are proving very resilient. At least the media who evolve are. So they have become quite new unto themselves.
The rub is that there is still a huge amount of potential in these things we call new media. And in particular the new new media. But momentum is starting to wane. Either the recalibration of marketing budgets of major brands have already shifted and reached perceived diminished marginal return on new media as the CMO of a multinational brand told me last week or we are so locked in the past's version of what new media means and does the future potential is unfathomable or deemed 'risky' as we move into a business climate that may elevate aversion to risk.
Much of this is speculation, but maybe there is something to the thought of rebranding new media and finding a better term for old media. Fortunately we rarely hear above the line and below the line anymore.
So what if instead we call it Media Classic and Media Contemporary. Or static media for those who haven't evolved and dynamic media for those who have. Maybe classic and contemporary is just the palatable blend for brands with large media mix and reach to help them try some of the new new stuff to better compliment old reliable. Just a thought.