Is the medium still the massage?

McLuhan’s relevance following the digital revolution


Marshall McLuhan’s seminal work is 50 years old. The core insight – that a medium shapes and ‘massages’ the message within it – once shaped communications thinking. Newsworks commissioned a combination of qualitative and quantitative research to investigate its relevance following the digital revolution.

Online mediums have had a transformative impact on news and new hybrid mediums have been created. This has changed how people relate to existing news media sources and had a profound impact on trust. Despite being some of the oldest brands in the UK, newsbrands are also arguably the ones who have best assimilated and adapted to this new world.



Accompanying the release of this new research, Newsworks presents a podcast series exploring the relevance and impact of Marshall McLuhan’s insight 50 years on from the publication of ’The Medium is the Massage’. 

Hosted by Newsworks’ Denise Turner, insight director and Rupert Medler, insight executive.

Episode 1

McLuhan’s core insights

We introduce McLuhan and explore some of his core insights. A central tenet of our new research is McLuhan’s idea that a medium shapes and ’massages’ the message within it - hence, ’The Medium is the Massage’.

This is because mediums require us to use different senses to understand and experience the world; therefore the senses a medium prioritises or deprioritises influence how we understand and experience the message. We touch on ’hot’ and ’cold’ mediums and the ways in which the dominant medium in any culture can shape society to a large extent, discussing various examples to highlight the underlying theory.

Episode 2

The media landscape

We explore the fallacy of old and new media, setting up a framework (converge/diverge and think/feel) and juxtaposing the current media landscape with that of the 1960s, when McLuhan first mapped it. We discuss how the research indicates we’ve gone from thinking to feeling - how we’re invited to engage with content using a wider range of senses.

From there, we take a look at the fragmented nature of the digital news landscape today and the ways in which the rise of digital has fundamentally changed the way we interact with information and news. There’s more chance for participation, but are we essentially more isolated as individuals? There’s a certain irony in having access to too much information, meaning people seek only information which reaffirms their world view.

Episode 3

Hybrid mediums

The advent of digital media has changed the definition of a medium forever. In light of this, we take a look at hybrid mediums in detail and focus on how newsbrands have adapted best to the modern news media environment. We cover why they remain highly relevant in a landscape increasingly dominated by digital media. 

There’s more discussion of the way that newsbrands, by extending across mediums, create a comprehensive picture that covers a wider area of the media map than each medium individually.

Episode 4

Trust in a hybrid medium world

Have the fundamental changes to the landscape affected trust in media?

In this episode, we explore the issue of trust in modern media and in a hybrid medium world. We suggest that the media landscape is, in fact, moving in the opposite direction to trust. Newsbrands manage to bridge this divide with new formats, retaining their legacy levels of trust even when they use digital to dial up the feeling in their output. They harness the growing number of mediums through which to serve information, giving the most enriching view of the world to their audience.


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