In the new media space, we use a lot of terms fairly confusingly:

Old media
Broadcast media
Mainstream media
New media
Social media
Personal media
Citizen journalism
Citizen media

Here’s a summary of how I think some of this stuff breaks down. Not authoritative by any means, just a perspective that helps me classify what is what in my own head.

Media landscape

Old media is stuff that’s been around for a while. It’s traditional media, like books, TV, radio, newspapers, etc. Note that this isn’t specific to brands or organization sizes – the New York Times is old media, but so is the Boston University Daily Free Press or the Wasilla Frontiersman.

New media is stuff that’s new, in a technological sense. It’s audio, video, and text publication methods and tools that were previously inaccessible for publication purposes to the average person in the past. Sure, you could run your own newspaper, and many did, but you never had a shot at the same level of reach that a blog or podcast today can have.

Social media is interactive media, and it’s a subset of new media, since the tools that enable social media didn’t exist before, and therefore are a subset of new media. Social media is by definition interactive. You can blog, podcast, crank out videos on YouTube, host Blog Talk Radio shows, etc. all by yourself and no one else has to be involved for you to be creating useful media. For example, Seth Godin’s blog is new media, but not social – comments are turned off. Is it still useful? Absolutely. Is it new media? Yes. Is it social? No way.

Social media is the opposite – it’s media that REQUIRES the participation of others. Twitter, for example, would never have existed without other users in the network. PodCamp as a conference would never have existed if it was only one person who showed up. Take any of the social networks, remove the people, and you have something not useful at all.

That’s why new media and social media are NOT interchangeable terms, and why I refer to PodCamp as a new media conference and not a social media conference. Yes, you can absolutely learn about social media at PodCamp, but you can also learn about the greater view of new media, too, and even, true to its namesake, podcasting.

What are your thoughts? Are social media and new media the same thing to you? Are they different? How do you view the landscape and make sense of it?


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