Social Media and the distinction from industrial media

Social media are distinct from industrial media, such as newspapers, television, and film. While social media are relatively cheap tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, industrial media are relatively expensive tools that generally require significant financial capital to publish information (which often limits their use to commercial purposes)[3]. Examples of industrial media include a printing press or a government-granted spectrum license.
"Industrial media" are commonly referred to as "traditional" or "mass" media.

One characteristic shared by both social media and industrial media is the capability to reach small or large audiences; for example, either a blog post or a television show may reach zero people or millions of people. "Reach" describes one of four properties which help describe the differences between social media and industrial media:

  • Reach - both industrial and social media technologies provide scale and enable anyone to reach a global audience.
  • Accessibility - the means of production for industrial media are typically exclusively controlled by for-profit enterprises; social media tools are generally available to anyone at little or no cost.
  • Usability — industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. Most social media simplify those processes, or in some cases reinvent them, so anyone can operate the means of production.
  • Recency — the time lag between communications produced by industrial media is relatively long (days, weeks, or even months) compared to social media (which can be capable of virtually instantaneous responses; only the participants determine any delay in response).

In his 2006 book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yochai Benkler analyzed many of these distinctions and their implications in terms of both economics and political liberty. However, Benkler, like many academics, uses the neologism Network Economy or "network information economy" to describe the underlying economic, social, and technological characteristics of what has come to be known as "social media."