What is the stigma of new media?

One only has to talk about new media, with someone deeply involved in traditional media, to understand the stigma that is involved. The strong reactions I receive to new media project proposal border on those you would receive if you asked someone to do porn. Typically this involves a nose wrinkle and a universal dismissal – ewww, new media? Surely, never! Some cannot conceive working in any different environment, despite the writing that is on the wall about traditional media. The new media genie is out of the bottle, never to be returned. The traditional media market will never be the same again. To ignore this fact seems the height of folly. Yet even my closest friends do just that. 

You only have to look at history to see the absurdity of this thinking. When the sound film was invented, those working in silent movies (an amazing art form in their own right) dismissed “talkies” as a fad that would never amount to anything. When television was first invented, movie stars would never think of appearing on “the idiot box.” How demeaning! How below them? Yet in both cases, monetary reality and common sense soon dictated the adoption of these new media models. The talkies and televison could dramatically enhance their careers, while ignoring them could severely damage it. Why do we have to repeat history? Why can’t we see that today’s new media is exactly the same? Why must we fight this century old bias?

The fact is, traditional media workers see new media as “not real” – a hobby – a plaything. This is much like how traditional filmmakers used to look down on  “indie” producers. We’ve all seen how that has worked out. Today, indie producers are gaining more “cred” than their studio counterparts – to the point where once indie production companies are being bought by the larger studios and budgets are reaching heights never imagined in an independent production. 

The biggest problem I see is that this stigma is being passed down by the traditional media moguls to the average traditional media worker – those who have the most to gain by using new media. Of course, the main reason for this is that traditional media stars don’t want people to understand the power of new media. It directly assaults their power base as gatekeepers and the arbiters of the public taste. It strips them of the power to control creative people by controlling the scarce resource that is the public airwaves. To paraphrase and old song, “We can’t keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris.”

I have close friends who could make great use of new media to further their careers, but they have been infected with the belief that there is only one way to succeed in the entertainment business – the method that everyone has followed for the last century. What they don’t realize though is that the game has changed – dramatically – and almost overnight. They are denying themselves access to the biggest resource they might ever have to showcase their talent. 

I can understand why they might be reticent. They have been told for years that the only way to succeed was to beg producers to use their talent. They held no power in the typical Hollywood environment. They always worked at the pleasure of the person holding the purse strings. To not achieve success in the traditional market is seen as failure – a failure that is heightened by being “forced” to fall back on new media. The fact is, though, new media isn’t a step back – it is a dramatic step forward. The media world will never be the same and it only makes sense to take advantage of that fact. Why do you need traditional media gatekeepers to deem you worthy when you can take your talent, your creativity, your product directly to your audience?

Of course, pursuing new media doesn’t mean they have to abandon all hope of “the big score” in traditional media. Heck, if they can score a movie or television contract, good for them! I tell them, though, don’t stop pursuing the smaller, yet more meaningful, successes in new media that will bring their message to the people, while they’re waiting for someone to “deem them worthy” for prime time. The fact is, they are worthy and always have been. They simply lacked the distribution method that allowed them to bypass all the gatekeepers.

Creative people, you have nothing to lose but your traditional media chains. New media has given you the method of showcasing your talent and/or delivering your message directly to your audience. Don’t squander this amazing resource based solely on your experience in traditional media. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t produce excellent, entertaining content. What these traditional media types mean is…you can’t produce it…without us – which isn’t true any longer.

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