The New Normal

In 1996, I attended a conference where Larry Irving, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (US agency for international communication issues), told a joke.  

There was once a new football coach at a major college who lost three important close games right away.  

A fan sent a note that said, “if you lose another game like that, I am going to come and shoot your dog.” This note was more threatening because it was signed with full contact information.  

The coach responded, “I did not come here to lose.  I have no intention of losing. And I do not have a dog.” 

The next day, the cutest little puppy was delivered to the coach.  The note around its neck said, “don’t get too attached.” 

Photo by Pixabay on

Irving’s point was that the media landscape is ever-changing and wise media professionals need to anticipate and embrace those changes.  At that time, he was talking about the transition to digital television.  

In a recent article, Anderson, Rainie, and Vogels (2021) quoted Irving when he said, “There will be considerable change. The new normal will include using technology more extensively for most facets of American life … It simply isn’t realistic to believe that now that folks have found out they can travel less, commute for fewer hours, study or review educational materials on their own time and obtain a medical opinion or diagnosis without sitting for endless hours in a doctor’s office waiting room that they will return willingly to the old normal.” 

Photo by Cristian Rojas on

For the entertainment industry, I see the same thing.  Ubiquitous networks will deliver more content than ever on demand.  Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Amazon have engaged in battles to deliver movies that used to require a theater visit. How many people are going to want to pay $18 for popcorn when the can stay on their own couch? People can watch the movie on that big screen they purchased for quarantine. In addition, every streaming service produces “exclusive” content.

American may be moving to an age where going out involves a specific purpose and media consumption is just as intentional. How do we restage our activities for the new normal? How should these changes affect our understanding of media’s influence on American life?  

Anderson, J., Rainie, L, & Vogels, E.A. (2021). Experts Say the ‘New Normal’ in 2025 Will Be Far More Tech-Driven, Presenting More Big Challenges. Pew Research Center.

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