Definition: How to Define “Retard Media”

Some people find the term “retard media” repulsive — and I think a large part of the repulsion is down to a misunderstanding of the term.

It seems as though many people associate “retarded” with mental capacity or something like that, but in fact it refers to outdated technology — in particular when outdated methods continue to be used, despite technological change having occurred in the “media” landscape.

It is quite difficult to nail down one or even a few defining characteristics of retard media, but there are, at least, several indicators that seem to be quite reliable markers:

  • use of brand names instead of natural language
  • “content agnostic” media
  • a bifurcation of “editorial” and “advertising” content
  • lack of community engagement / participation

When a brand name is used in media, it usually has the function of quasi-validating the content on the grounds that it is an opinion that is held by the brand owners. Thus, for example, Google may say that a video hosted at youtube.com may deserve a very high ranking on google.com by noting that the rankings on google.com are simply the opinion of Google, Inc.

Another clear indicator of retard media is when there are two different types of content — “sponsored” (advertising) and “editorial”. In the vast majority of cases, this means that the editorial content is used as “filler” to create spaces to plaster advertisements onto.

When media are “content agnostic”, that means that any topic is considered as within the scope of the medium in question. For example: A “news” organization might consider anything as “newsworthy“. Such media often seek to be considered as “one-stop shops” for everything. Prominent examples include Google, Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times, etc. While the rationale for such broad scope may seem to make sense, the notion that any single media channel could provide total coverage of everything and every imaginable topic is ludicrously absurd.

Community engagement and opportunities to participate are particular difficult to measure in a reliable way, but it is often quite clear whether and to what extent a medium’s stakeholders are able to be involved in the medium. If all most people can do is to read, watch or otherwise consume the medium’s message, then that is a rather passive role.

By far, the most clear indicator is a brand name — and whether that is a corporate brand or a personal brand does not make much of a difference. Pretty much all brands are guilty of the primary hallmark of outdated media: Claiming validity and reliability on the basis of nothing more than their own brand names. Many brands base such claims on their traditional and well-established brand name recognition (and the ideas these brand names have come to be associated with). Ultimately, all brand names base their authority on the past, and not on any current qualities. Likewise: By definition, trademarks must be protected and exclusive. This single indicator is so reliable, that simply paying attention to this one attribute is in most cases sufficient to recognize a medium as belonging to “retard media” — and exceptions would only substantiate the rule.

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