Media Purgatory

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Media Purgatory. Maybe that’s exactly where we are at this specific moment in time.

According to Wikipedia, "Purgatory is the condition or process of purification in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven… John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed in an intermediate state between death and the final judgment and in the possibility of ‘continuing to grow in holiness there’, but Methodism does not officially affirm his belief and denies the possibility of helping by prayer any who may be in that state." Jay Rosen says newspapers and the modern media will look more like a hybrid between professional journalism and citizen journalism (more on that here: How Mass Media Learns About New Media) while Jeff Jarvis (and others) have really been trying to figure out what the new business models of journalism will look like (more on that here: How Journalism Survives New Media (By Saving Itself)).

So, where does that leave consumers and marketers?

While the old business model of mass media still maintains (it hasn’t totally collapsed) and the newer business models and platforms haven’t really evolved to the point where they are experiencing the same kinds of level of engagement and advertising dollars, it’s clear that we are in some form of media purgatory. We’re stuck. We’re in the middle of this. We’re not going back to a world where we get our news every morning at 6:00 am on our doorstep, or at 6:00 pm on the television. We’re also not in a world driven by RSS subscriptions and Digg-like choices mixed in with infinite editorialization that anyone can comment on and link to. We’re not exactly experiencing the real-time Web with reporting on events coming from video-enabled iPhones or Twitter feeds. We’re also not seeing that many new advertising models that have the bigger brands shifting media platforms in a dramatic fashion (in fact, it just looks like they’re cutting back on advertising budgets versus shifting them from one media platform to another).

We’re all just waiting. Enjoying moments of traditional mass media coupled with moments of highly innovative digital platforms.

For the old guard, this is hell. For the new guard, this is heaven. The consumers and marketers are simply caught in the middle of it all.

Sounds like purgatory to me.


  1. The reason old media feels stuck is that they have lost the illusion of control. Assuming they exist to serve the public, they just need to listen and give the market what it wants. Probably not anything they think we want

  2. As a marketer for small businesses, I definitely agree with you. There is simply too much information and “new ways” to do things. (Proven and unproven)
    I see myself as a data point for my clients. I help process and concrete some of these concepts.
    Really though, the motivation and desired effects are the same. Everyone has been trying to wrestle “word of mouth”. Old dog, new tricks.

  3. Oh man, I truly missed reading your blog Mitch! But now I am back and ready to contribute.
    The current situation reminds me of the Soviet Union collapse in the early 90’s. I guess you can say I lived through it, even though I was a little shrimp eating ice cream somewhere around the corner but nevertheless I was there!
    Many people always talk about how they could of made so much money only if they knew what was happening during the transition. It certainly wasn’t a glorious with the level of uncertainty jumping through unprecedented levels similar to the current state of media purgatory that you are talking about.
    But when the dust settled, those that had even a little sense of what was going on, came out on top. Let’s just say Twist Image has a great position 🙂
    But how will media look like after the dust settles? No one knows! As something else might just pop up and disrupt the industry in an unthinkable way.
    As for the majority of people – I don’t think they are enjoying this technological shift just as much as we are – as the world just got more competitive and complicated.
    Glad to be back,
    Alex “Dust Settler” Ikonn

  4. Great post Mitch. It is indeed an awkward time, where old media providers struggle to find a model that keeps them profitable in a world of free. And where attention is fragmented by a seemingly endless volume of text and video that easily flows from our screens of increasingly more mobile and diverse varieties. With the enormous volume of quality free content available, more of us resist the pay walls of even the most gifted journalists. Books still find their niche in both text and audio, though even those suffer for attention. It is relatively easy for the millions of us to publish text-based content equivalent to a few pages, no journalism school or traditional media employer interview required.
    Quality video is more expensive to create so TV and the Cinema live on and thrive, yet those suffer some attention loss as well. And with internet-enabled viewing coming to our large TV screens, traditional TV will come under pressure. It is an awkward time, purgatory perhaps, or heaven or hell depending on your perspective. I echo the sentiment of the Wicked Witch of the West, “Oh, what a world! What a world!� indeed.

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