What is Cross-Media?

Posted on by Tony Hodgson | 1 Comment »

I was recently asked to define the term “Cross-Media” and so this is just my own view. Cross-media means different things to different people. And to some people (important ones for digital printers) it means nothing at all.

It’s the phrase of choice that some traditional media industries have adopted to support their transition to the digital age. It’s not just used in the graphics industry. For example, each year there is a “Cross-Media Forum” alongside the London Film Festival which “connects the film and media industries with key

cross mediainnovators of the digital revolution”. Look at the entry for “crossmedia” on Wikipedia and you won’t find any mention of print. It’s all about re-casting content from one medium into another one or bridging from one to another – like the Mitsubishi SuperBowl TV ad which showed the website address, SeeWhatHappens.com, at the end.

But the one thing all these interpretations of cross-media have in common is that they are all about crossing over from traditional media to digital and online media.

Some History

The phrase was first mentioned in the graphics industry in PODi’s Best Practice Report from 2003. It was used to describe a new technique of using dynamically generated personalised websites which featured your name in the URL – PURLs. Rab Govil, the President of PODi, founded a company called Nimblefish which did “messaging across media.” They trademarked the term “PURL.” (Nimblefish is now part of RR Donnelly.)

Allegedly, the “XM” in XMPie stands for cross-media. XMPie, founded in 2000, was one of the first solutions to offer Personalised URLs or “RURLS” (Response URLs) as they call them and one of the first to call its product a “cross-media” marketing solution. In the graphics industry, cross-media came to mean direct mail or email with a Personalised URL in it.

The Future of Cross Media

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the term was first coined and now it needs to be re-positioned much more broadly. Despite ten years of promotion by the graphics industry, it still means nothing to the average marketing professional. They talk enthusiastically of “multi-channel marketing” or “integrated marketing” but often really struggle to do it. Most have never heard of “cross-media marketing”. They have a digital agency for online, a mobile agency for mobile, an ad agency for TV, and graphic designers and printers for offline.

Most agencies they work with now are totally uninterested in print and not even competent in it any more. Yet brands are still strongly wedded to print – they just need to be reminded of the value of print. And this is where there is a great opportunity for the digitally savvy printer. The point of cross-media is to make print more effective, and to measure by how much, by connecting it to digital media channels which are more easily measurable.

Cross-media for the next decade will mean much more than Personalised URLs. Social media is here to stay and print easily hooks into that. And now mobile is the fastest growing new digital medium. QR Codes and Intelligent Print Recognition enable print to become interactive with mobile devices. Print with embedded NFC tags is just around the corner. Opportunities will abound.

Nimblefish’s original definition still works for me: “messaging across media”. Just keep an open mind about all the media out there that you can cross over to and from digital print.


One Response to “What is Cross-Media?”

Pingback from Are YOU Promoting the Sustainability of Print? » PODi Insights
Time April 3, 2013 at 7:00 am

[...] those businesses promoting digital-only communications (which, as savvy cross-media marketers, we know isn’t the best way to connect with consumers) aren’t the only ones [...]

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