BusinessWeek Online: Do new media channels affect how existing channels are used?

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Interesting article on a Swiss study on communication options.

A recent Swiss study finds that as the communication options available to us expand, we tend to narrow the uses and audience for each

And the options are growing…

It’s one of the surprising recent findings of a study carried out in Switzerland. In the last few years our communication environment has been expanding at a very fast pace. The lone fixed-line telephone has given way to multiple fixed and mobile phones, e-mail,instant messaging (IM), text messaging, voice-over-Internet-protocol(VoIP) free (or near-free) telephony and videoconferencing, and other interactive channels such as blogs and wikis.

This expanded communication environment raises some questions: Are people”specializing” their use of different communication channels? For example, do mobile-phone, fixed-line, and e-mail users differentiate their usage of those tools in terms of content, communication partners,and habits? Are new channels affecting how existing channels are used?

Here is the articles conclusion:

So do new channels affect how existing channels are used? According to Broadbent, yes. Each new channel or media that appears slowly redefines the uses of the older existing media, she suggests: IM is currently redefining usage of short messaging; blogging is redefining the usage of e-mail; VoIP is changing the nature of a phone call. New patterns of communication emerge slowly, stabilize for a period, and then change again when new channels come along.

What role does cost play in shifting usage from one channel to the other?” Cost does play a role, but it’s not absolute.” She cites as evidence the fact that we use cell phones from home although it’s more expensive and we have alternatives available. The cost is off set by convenience: With phone numbers stored in a cell phone’s memory, it’s more practical to take the device out of our pocket and push a button to place a call.

Even if it is just to call the same four or five people over and over.

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