Jay Small

I am a digital-focused executive living near Nashville, Tennessee. And I’m a guitarist who has played in a few variety bands.
When they’re too much to tweet, sometimes I post thoughts and ideas here.

Why I still say ‘interactive’ instead of ‘digital’ et al

Sorry, nits. Meet your picker.

It bugs me (yes, puny play on words intended) to hear leaders of legacy media businesses refer to their “digital” strategies or products, meaning all their online/internet/web/social/mobile stuff.

How did “interactive,” as the adjective of choice for such stuff, lose favor? It is both more accurate and more aspirational.

I run the interactive business for a group of local television stations. TV, in case you have been off the grid for the past decade or so, is now almost fully a digital business.

Before this job, I helped run the interactive team for a chain of newspapers. By the way, they, too, are almost purely digital businesses right up to the point where plates go on a press and ink meets paper.

If I say, “I run digital businesses for my company,” that should thus mean, “I run my company.” And that’s not true.

If I say, “I run interactive businesses for my company,” you might reply, “But your [sites|apps|pages] really aren’t all that interactive.”

That’s the aspirational part.

Being digital just means you use 1s and 0s instead of hand tools, chemicals or mechanical devices. Once you convert to digital technologies in every key element of your business, you check off that box and move on to something else.

Being interactive means growing one-way mass-media communications forms into multidirectional, multithreaded, continuously evolving conversations. Interactivity comes in infinite degrees, so you never get to check off the box that says it’s done.

So don’t talk to me about your “digital strategies” unless you include things like exciters for digital TV transmission or kerning pairs in Adobe InDesign for digital construction of newspaper pages. If you want to talk about interactive strategy, I’m all ears.

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