What is legacy media?

By Sue Voyles / September 26, 2022 / , ,

People often wonder when they hear terms like “legacy media” or “mass media.” Sometimes the phrase is “mainstream media,” or some even call it “old media.”

All of these word choices are appropriate when talking about what many consider the heart of the “information age.” This age began in the early 20th century with the advent of broadcasting through radio and television and then eventually cable broadcasting, computers and the internet.

The term of choice for many had been “mass media,” which describes the reach of things like radio and television, as well as print mediums like newspapers and periodicals, which have a much longer history.

For some, this “old” media reflects something that is no longer nearly as important as it once was. But if we reflect on this for a moment it’s clear that today’s mainstream media includes components of the old ways of sharing information. There is still a great demand for centralized ways to communicate.

What has happened to mass media

As many know, the idea of mainstream media sources has taken a hit in recent years as people’s willingness to trust large, centralized institutions has weakened. Many fear the power of dominant sources of information that may or may not account for the needs of the average citizen. (This is still an issue, if we consider the distrust of Facebook, for example.)

This has led to the sometimes-derided term “legacy media.” But legacy media is really just another way of describing our historic, traditional sources of information, whether it be newspapers, radio, or television. Calling something “legacy” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s negative—it just means it is an older form, perhaps beyond its usefulness or even irrelevant at times.

Certainly, television has exploded through the expansion of streaming networks and cable channels. This explosion has forced the legacy networks to confront previous ways of sharing information – and that’s been a good thing.

Technology has turned the world upside down at a rapid clip, leading to a vast decentralizing of our information sources and streams. The proliferation of telecommunications networks that began the original information age has revolutionized mass media to the extent that past ways of sharing or retrieving information is now “legacy” or even “old.” Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s really more a description than a function or process.

So what does it all mean?

The expansion of ways to communicate, share and disseminate information has created challenges and opportunities for business owners, executives, marketing gurus and public relations (PR) experts for sure.

While offering myriad channels and directions to “get the word out,” the array of choices can often be overwhelming. The challenges of what some now call “new media” to the old ways of doing business has forced everyone to both think differently and send out, share, and direct our important information in new ways.

For example, many of our clients who have been in business for a long time have watched as their techniques for reaching customers have changed so much that they have had to hire or seek help from people trained in social media, content marketing or SEO. New ways of doing business always require new thinking, but even more, new staff trained in processes and procedures many of us never even knew 20-some years ago.

For businesses, change can be difficult, costing money and requiring a willingness to be even more open and inviting than ever. Just think of it – social media marketing calls for a company owner to “put themselves out there” and be even more open to criticism, harsh review or even attack.

Finding a balance between old and new

This is not the place for an in-depth look at what I call “pay to play” media sources, but it is a development where legacy media is trying to find a balance between maintaining a wide audience and having a sustainable source of income.

Free media sources are getting harder to come by, and yet legacy media remains an effective option for many businesses to advertise, communicate and share information about their products or services.

Bottom line is that company owners must find a balanced way to work with, use or partner with legacy media sources, new media outlets and the new channels that crop up all of the time.