Media vs. Medium – What’s the Difference?

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Technically speaking, media is the plural form of the word medium and will most regularly be used in conjunction with a plural verb – for example, “The media are highly relevant in today’s society.” That  being said, if you were to refer to multiple fortune tellers, the correct word would be mediums.

There is a common confusion between media and medium, this is largely because both have the potential to mean something entirely different yet, despite one being the plural form of the other.

In writing, genre and medium are closely linked – but, they are still vastly different. As we learned from an earlier article, genre refers specifically to the form that your writing will take (a business letter or memo, for example.) A medium, on the other hand, speaks to the way that that particular piece of writing will be delivered to it’s intended recipient or audience. For example, if you were writing a letter or some other piece of correspondence, would it be delivered by postal mail or electronically?

What types of media exist in 2018?

Traditional Print Media

· Memo

· Meeting minutes

· Cover letter

· Report

· Financial report

· Newsletter

· Newspaper

· Briefs

· Billboard

· Monthly circular

· Employee handbook

· Text book

· Product manual

· Brochures

· Etc.

Electronic Media

· Email memo

· Text message or SMS

· Instant message

· Website

· Blog

· Video

· Television ad

· Etc.

Media vs. Medium

When most people hear the word ‘media’ their minds immediately gravitate to thoughts of news cameras, reporters and up-to-the minute accounts of local or even worldwide events. And, while that is a true depiction of the ‘media’ that isn’t the media we are referring to.

What is interesting about media and medium in writing is that you can’t have one without the other. Media is medium in its plural form.

What is a Medium in Writing

Written media offers benefits that you might not have otherwise experienced when speaking to your audience, such as:

  • A broader access to more individuals, including those that you might not have been able to communicate with otherwise.
  • An inexpensive way to address larger groups of people, in a shorter amount of time.
  • A permanent, verifiable record of the things you’ve said – for both yourself and the people you are communicating with.
  • A chance to preview your message and to check for inconsistencies prior to delivery.

One of the greatest perks of choosing written medium over verbal medium is that you aren’t limited in terms of your platform. There are several options available to you, such as:

  • Letters
  • Memos
  • Briefs
  • Slide decks
  • News releases
  • Billboards
  • Signs
  • Forms
  • Brochures
  • Websites
  • Posters
  • Newspaper print

There are also few limitations to the methods of media delivery available. For example, you might choose from one of the following:

  • Email
  • Fax
  • Postal mail
  • Registered mail
  • Hand delivery
  • Internal mail service

Examples of a Medium That Exist Today

Using communication in the business world as an example, there is no shortage of medium to use when crafting your written communication. Here are a few examples:

Written Communication Media:

  • Special management bulletin
  • News copy
  • Formal management report
  • Notebook or handbook
  • Publication
  • Employee bulletin
  • Newspaper
  • Monthly publication
  • Letters
  • Employee notebook
  • Reading rack
  • Notice
  • Internal circular
  • Memo
  • Report
  • Financial report

Now, if we were to extend past the confines of written media to include other mediums of communication that might be suitable for the workplace, our list would expand to include the following:

  • Face to face meetings
  • Video conferencing
  • Telephone conferencing
  • 2-way radio

Selecting the right medium for a report

When it comes to communications in the professional world, you have ample options available to you – each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Type of MediumAdvantageDisadvantage
Verbal MediumCreate relationships and forge trust; expedite the decision making process; receive immediate feedbackSpontaneous and in real-time; might result in misinformation or poor choice of words; unable to reference written documentation at future times.
Written MediumMessage can easily be edited or revised; document can be archived for future reference; can be used as study material; can be used in both legal and business settings.Message is static; unable to generate immediate feedback; might be difficult for the sender to confirm that the recipient understands the material
Electronic MediaCan be received instantly; is easily adapted to multiple recipientsThere might be technical difficulties; there might be security breaches

 

Selecting the best medium for a report typically comes down to three factors: the audience, your budget and the message itself.

Know Your Audience

Who are the people in your target audience? Who is the report being written for? This should be the thing that you take into the highest consideration when choosing a medium. For instance, if you are in marketing, or making some for of customer-driven report, it might be beneficial to create customer personas of your target audience – You should endeavor to know everything you can about them. For example, if you are writing a report for a person, or group of people, who are not overly tech-savvy, you might have better success providing them with a printed correspondence rather than email.

On the other hand, it is impossible to tailor your communication if you do not clearly know who your audience is. Consider the following:

How big will your audience be? Are you trying to communicate with one person, or a larger group of people? A single person might mean that you can get up close and personal, whereas a larger group might require something like a conference room or an email blast.

What types of people are you speaking to? Is you audience full of senior-level executives? Are they peers? Maybe even a group of students?  All of these things will determine what type of medium you choose to deliver your message.

What can you afford?

This point should strike you as obvious, however, it is certainly worth consideration.  Your budget will determine whether you can invest in fancier print medium, electronic mediums or if you should stick with a traditional black and white print copy.

The Message You are Delivering

What is it that you are trying to say? Is it an informal message, or something more formal? Consider the weight and the value of the message. In the end, the medium you select really has to sync with the message. For instance, a notification that is formal and depends on the recipients obtaining and reading the message in the body is probably better sent via registered mail instead of as an email attachment.

Social conventions are defined as being the ‘arbitrary rules and conventional norms that govern the behaviours that every day citizens engage in without necessarily thinking about them. This could be anything from shaking hands to driving on the right side of the road.’

Speaking in terms of social contention examples as they relate to written medium, it is safe to say that things like instant messaging, texting (or SMS), status updates or comments on social media posts have become the conventional norm. More and more people are turning to this kind of electronic media as a way to deliver their message and to engage with their audience.

Print media is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Take newsprint for example, granted people still regularly seek out the daily news, but few people have a traditional newspaper subscription anymore. The conventional norm has become to read the new in a digital format either from a home computer on a handheld device, like a smartphone.

This shift from print to digital should be considered when deciding which type of medium is the most likely to be able to deliver your message.

If you the people in your target audience belong to the demographic of smartphone users – like those mentioned in our newspaper example – would it make sense to provide them with a printed piece of correspondence, or would something like an email or text message be more likely to garner their attention?