A glossary of frequently misused New Media terms
Despite having mass production and mass reach, Industrial Era’s media technologies (1450-2000) have a hallmark limitation: every recipient of an edition simultaneously receives the same selections of items in it. Although there might be some minor geographic ‘zoning’ differences among the selection, the bulk of items in all such simultaneous ‘zoned’ editions is the same. This limitation is inherent in analog printing presses and in later analog waveform broadcast transmitters (i.e., traditional radio and TV transmitters, in which cases all listeners or viewers of a program schedule simultaneously receive the same program). This is hallmark limitation of Industrial Era media technologies can be termed analog uniformity.
There is no such hallmark limitation with the Informational Era’s computer-mediated technologies, whose characteristics are mass production, mass distribution, mass reach, and mass customization or individuation.
Bell’s Journalism Syndrome
The mistaken belief that a business model which works for a national publication will necessarily succeed for regional publications. In other words, if a business model will work for The New York Times or the Guardian of London, then it will work for all regional newspapers, too. That might have been true during the Industrial Era, when consumers’ access to and supply of news was relatively scarce, limited to whatever newspapers were locally available. However, now during the Informational Era, when consumers have no longer have relatively scarce but surplus access and supply of new, that belief in a transitive nature for business models is mistaken. For example, though The New York Times might have now generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually because, after nearly a decade of trying, its online paywall has motivated three percent of its websites’ 130 million registered monthly users to pay online subscriptions;, that doesn’t mean the average U.S. daily newspaper can succeed using that same model. That average newspaper’s website might have 100,000 monthly users. If only three percent of them pay for online subscriptions ($15 to $35 per month), that average newspaper will generate only between $540,000 and $1.26 million annually, not enough revenue to subsidize itself. And the reality is that it will likely motivate less than three percent.
‘Disruption’ or ‘Disruptive’
When media executives or media academicians uses terms such as ‘media disruption‘, ‘disruptive journalism’, etc., it indicates that they understand that the media environment is disruptively changing but they don’t understand how or why–otherwise they would simply state where the disruptive change is leading. [See also ‘post-industrial’ journalism]
Personalization, Customization, and Individuation
Marketers’ miscontruals be damned, the words personalization, customization, and individuation aren’t the same. These words have distinctly different meanings.
Personalization is salutation or address. If your name is John Smith and you receive an unsolicited marketing letter in the postal mail that says ‘Dear John’ or ‘Dear Mr. Smith’, that letter has been personalized. Simultaneously, thousands of other people might also be receiving that same commercial marketing letter. The only difference between their letter and yours is that each of you is addressed by name in it. Likewise, a friend or relative might give to as a holiday gift a personalized gift such as a key fob or cuff links embossed with your initials or perhaps golf balls onto which your initials have been printed. Those gifts are basically identical gifts that thousands of other people might have received, except that the initials or name printed on those have been personalized for each recipient. Personalization isn’t customization. Each golf ball, cuff link, key fob, or postal letter is the same, except for bearing the name of its recipent. The practice of personalization began during the final century of the Industrial Era, when Mass Marketers began to realize that personalized products are more attractive than generic ones at the same price. Online products that use mere personalization aren’t innovative but are merely repurposing an old marketing practice.
Customization differs from personalization in that some or much of the substance of what is received, not just its salutation or address, was specifically designed for that individual’s specific needs, interests, and tastes. Customization almost always involves a common product that is then modified, generally by the simple addition or simple subtractions of its parts or components, for the individual who is to receive it. Degrees of customization span a spectrum bordered on one end by personalization and on the other end by individuation. An off-the-rack dress that is then adjusted by a tailor for the purchaser’s body is an example. A home kitchen whose choice of components was selected by the home’s owner but which uses ready-made cabinets and mass-produced appliances is another. As is a row of identical new homes, each of which is painted a color which that individual home’s new owner chooses. Customized products have existed throughout the Industrial Era, if not earlier. Many, if not most, Mass Media executives and mass marketers nowadays mistakenly use the terms personalization or personalized when they instead mean customization or customized.
Individuation involves products that from the onset were specifically designed for the recipient individual’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. A bespoke suit or dress is an example. A house designed and built to serve a specific individual. A sculpture fabricated for an individual purpose. Unlike personalization or customization, individuation doesn’t involve a generic product onto which other components or elements are added or from which are subtracted. The term individuation comes from Jungian psychology in which it denotes the process by which the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious. In media, the term is used to describe the production of a product that is uniquely differentiated from any other according to its recipient’s individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes.
A shibboleth used by veterans of late Industrial Era journalism who realize that an epochal change is underway in the media environment but who realize, recognize, or understand what the subsequent era is, or else they would be able to name it rather than use this term. For example, the Industrial Era wasn’t called the Post-Agricultural Era except perhaps by those who at that time didn’t understand what was happening. Those who did understand called it the Industrial Era. The Informational Era (i.e., a period when most of developed nations’ economies involve producing services rather than industrial products) nowadays has already begun to supersede the Industrial Era. People who use the term ‘post-industrial’ don’t fail to perceive or understand that. Their usage of this term is an inadvertent signal of that. [See also ‘disruptive’].