All new media fail at first

Back in the 1990s when the internet became a thing, there was a moment when every company realized they had to have a website. There was a scramble to get something up, and the results often weren’t pretty.

At first, what mattered was that a company had some kind of website. Most of what went up was ugly and did nothing. It was only once they got a site up that decision makers noticed it wasn’t doing much to help the business.

And no wonder. All that clutter made all those mediocre early websites invisible.

The power of message and design

Not surprisingly, Apple was one of the first to bring their company’s site back to the power of a simple, focused message, with the launch of the iMac. Soon other brands created websites with stronger messages and better design that got people to act.

When we look at it, the same thing happens at the beginning of any new media. The very early stuff is pretty awful, in TV, in radio, in print. It’s only once everyone is there that people figure out how to create work that helps the business.

We’re in a similar transition moment now with social media and content marketing.

Why new media underperforms and how not to

Over the last few years, everyone has jumped on content marketing programs and social media. And now a lot of people are noticing that they’re not bringing in much business.

As social media and content marketing become ubiquitous, the power of message and design start to matter again, not only in social and content marketing, but also in the longstanding media that the serious players always pay attention to.

The new digital media are great tools to put a message in front of your audience. But then you need to give them a reason to act. The pendulum is on its way back to a time when the message, the good creative work, matters more than it has recently. Because that’s the only way to get people to sit up and pay attention and do something.

And that will be fun.

Next up: What is good work?