With all the confusion about where to send your messages if you want to reach your communications target, we seem to be in the eye of a media transition.

Flipping from Facebook, to Linkedin, to Twitter the other day, it occurred to me that in olden times this was like getting to watch a television show.

In the 1950s, the last time we have a major transition in media usage, advertisers were trying to cope with the change from radio and print to television.

The big question: how to deal with TV?

The TV shows were usually run by sponsors which may surprise us today. Lux Video Theatre, Texaco Hour, and others — not to mention the soap operas that were owned by P&G and other soap companies.  Advertisers quickly discovered that documentaries about how your made your rubber boots was not interesting enough to attract and sustain attention.  But they tried.

On early TV, commercials were integrated right into the action. In a sitcom, the actors would gather to discuss something and you would find them continuing on into a Maxwell House commercial. And commercials would be up to two minutes long, which feels like a feature film when you watch one today. The actors poured over all the silly details of the products they were hawking.

Advertisers on TV used the same logic as they had used for radio. Use the content to attract attention and then provide your message. So what’s so different today? True, television migrated from sponsorship of shows to purchase of scattered announcements in many shows. But the use of media content as a lure to attract attention to their message remained.

All the techniques advertisers used are based on this. So what about the internet? Websites can give information in painful detail about a particular product or company.

Just like some of the early TV shows, early websites were documentaries. But who goes looking for information on product differentiation. Web 2.0 for advertisers saw a proliferation of action sites, sites with program content controlled by advertisers.

Initially these promotional sites were perishable relating to contests or issues.  Content was attractive because customers were given a chance to win something, or get something for free.  In other words there was a financial incentive.

So how do you drive traffic to your website? Make your site interesting, intriguing and entertaining.  That means the site has to continually change to be engaging.

So that brings us back to content asa one of the best ways of attracting attention to an existing site.

One thing that is overlooked as a way to increase site traffic is telling people about a site. That means use of traditional advertising techniques – putting your website in all your materials and trumpeting it.

And use of traffic directors like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace, Youtube and their kindred to tell prospects why they should pay attention to you. Which should lead to why they should buy. But sites still need content in order to sustain interest and attention.

Too many sites have inactive News sections, blog sections with one or two entries, and other topical sections without updates. That’s like running the same commercial for years at a time. And site wearout can be quick if its value is just for reference or downloading manuals.

Some advertisers, like Evian’s baby skaters most recently, have gotten better attention worldwide by posting on YouTube than they get on traditional TV.   The skating babies is the latest in a series that included baby synchronized swimmers, break-dancers, etc.  But does it connect to water for consumers?  Or is the water message left in the babies’ diapers?

It all depends on how willing the advertiser is on taking a risk and whether the entertainment value of their video translates to awareness, persuasion value and sales.

Part of this transition period from television as the dominant medium means there is a lot of risk with hope of questionable reward for advertisers. Like before, content is king. Getting the content right means trusting communications professionals like never before.

We could take a lesson from the way the Motion Picture Industry stages the Oscars as a promotional event for their product. The award show format is just editorial content is to get the target to pay attention to the advertising message. Their product as a hero.

Actually the Motion Picture folks have done such a good job, the news media actually think the Oscars are news. Mind you, this is the same media who dedicated more than a week full time to cover Michael Jackson. They know hard news when the see it.  But duping the news media is a tried and true technique for all of us trying to get attention for our clients.

We can also take a lesson from media outlets who are rapidly transforming their businesses from printing and broadcasting to web.

While the media transition continues, the winners will be those who understand its transition and can think ahead to the kind of media world that will be, rather than the one that is.

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