Today’s media is an orchestra, according to Ketchum's Aaron Berger and Angela Fernandez

We're proud to present a guest blog post from #YMS16 NYC partners, Aaron Berger and Angela Fernandez from Ketchum. How is today's media like an orchestra? Read on to find out:

An editor friend and I like to get into a debate about the future of media when we get together.

To be more exact, we like to get into a debate about whether print can survive in a world dominated by millennials and Gen Z’ers coming of age. This debate typically devolves into the big questions about legacy media. Is cable dead? Is social just a narcissistic form of communication? Or is it the democratization of information? Can long form still even exist?

When the dust settles, we seem to come to the same conclusion – the Internet is simply another medium, but it’s not the only medium, and companies that look beyond online impressions to understand how today’s media work in harmony are the ones that will be the most relevant.

The problem is that for so long, communication had precise gateways – print, television, radio (NPR, sports radio, drive-time shows), and the ever-important word of mouth. Most of the distributers of media information were large conglomerates – Time Inc., Viacom, News Corp, NBC Universal, Condé Nast, Hearst, The New York Times Company and Dow Jones, to name a few. These conglomerates had business models that relied on controlling information, creating stories, and then have masses subscribing to and consuming the stories, and then have advertisers buy space with the knowledge that an audience would be looking at the stories.

Then, like the flip of a switch, the Internet burst onto the scene, and suddenly, information could no longer be controlled in the same way.  

As the Internet arose, the millennial generation came of age and quickly understood how to take advantage of the new tool. AOL was connecting them to information from all over the world. Cell phones were becoming the norm. Information, for the first time, was everywhere, and it was changing how interactions were being made, and ideas were being generated. After all, for the first time in history almost any piece of information could be accessed instantly, information could be transmitted via mobile and you didn’t need to buy a newspaper to understand what was happening the day before – you could understand what was happening right now in your backyard, or across the world in Japan. Information being dispersed, syndicated and amplified, instead of controlled through specific avenues, was a development with no significant precedent. The 24-hour news cycle turned into 24 minutes.

But while millennials got to experiment, test and play with this shiny new Internet, the kids, tweens and teens of Generation Z were the first generation to truly grow up with high-speed technology literally from birth. Just like the car used to be a marker of freedom, now kids are growing up on the information superhighway, exploring the world and gaining independence not through a license, but through a smart phone loaded with Snapchat or Instagram. Social connections are made not around the TV, but over the text message or Facebook chat.

Information at your fingertips is a given, but suddenly social connections can be made immediately, and in a brand new way. Likes are the new social capital, and individuals are building personal, digital brands. And for Gen Z, there is no separation between the offline and online world. Their digitally connected world allows them to expect more engagement from their circle of friends, and now from brands as well. So, to bring us back to today, why does all this matter? 

I like to use the analogy of a band vs. an orchestra. The media environment used to be like a band with a few pieces that worked together. Maybe you could throw in an extra guitarist, or another drummer to amplify your message, but the way the sound was created seemed to be confined to a few instruments all playing together. Today, those instruments have multiplied and dispersed. Brand managers now have to act as conductors of a media environment that resembles more of an orchestra with hundreds of pieces as opposed to a few. This means conductors, or, in this case, brand managers, must understand how to take advantage of their new media tools to harness their messages into music that can be consumed, appreciated and remembered by their audience. But – just like the old days – if today’s millennials and Gen Z like what they’re hearing, they’ll buy more of it.

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