The web has many advantages (and plenty of disadvantages) over older media like print and television, but mostly it’s simply different than the others. The Internet is new media, and it’s made to work in a completely different way than old media.
First of all, it’s me oriented. I’m the reader, I do what I want! If I’m reading a book, I progress the way the author wrote it. If I’m reading an online article, I can pause at the flashy graphics, decide to skip to the next section, click links to other related (or unrelated) pages, and be horribly impatient and leave if I don’t get what I want in five seconds. I can turn off my graphics, I can block your ads, I can change my screen resolution to teeny-tiny so I don’t see half your stuff, I can change my default font to Ye Olde English and read your blog wearing a top hat and monocle. Once someone has produced and sold a TV show or a book or a movie, that’s it – they’ve got their money and whether or not you like the content doesn’t matter so much. But with the Internet, producers of content have to constantly and continuously please their readers … or we’re out of here, and they lose ad revenue and viewers.
When you watch television, go to the movies, or read a book or magazine, you’re a one-way audience. Stephen King doesn’t see you wince when he horribly murders a character; Johnny Depp doesn’t hear the squees and sighs of fangirls at the theatre. There is no immediate feedback and no two-way communication.
When you surf the internet, however, you’re engaging in new media. If you’re on a blog like this one, you can comment and tell the author how you feel… and that author can in turn respond to your thoughts, or delete your comment and block your IP address. Feedback is instantaneous (unless screening has been applied) and can be seen by whomever views the page. In the age of social media, everything is shared, commented upon, or liked/recommended.
With the social media boom comes a convergence of instant feedback with older media types. For example, when you watch your favorite TV show (say, FRINGE) on Hulu.com, you can now instantly share that video and your comments (“I love Walternate!”) to Facebook. That doesn’t mean J.J. Abrams or John Noble will ever see them, but they’re out there. The Internet also keeps fanbases alive and can bring back shows from the dead: Buffy the Vampire Slayer got an eighth season years later via the world of comics due to its still-present fanbase; talks of a Firefly reboot are in the works for the same reason. In the print media field, authors can offer immediate chapter snippets and free samples to their readers, as well as get feedback and reviews. If the creators of old media content – authors, actors, directors, producers, etc. – choose to get a social media account, they can get direct feedback from viewers.
We take this instant feedback for granted now, but we’ve forgotten how little time it’s been. Less than 10 years ago, you’d have to go to Hollywood or be very, very lucky to catch a glimpse of a popular actor or hope to shout some adoration at them. Now, many in the limelight constantly post photos and chronicles of day-to-day life and behind-the-scenes info, and I can tweet Nathan Fillian about my love for him until he blocks me.