I’ll begin with a question. Is asking, “What is the future of media?” the smartest question we can ask? Yes I know the topic is frequently debated and discussed, but is that what we should be asking ourselves?

We all know media is consumed in a variety of places and formats. If told in 1996 that we would consume content, have apps, do email, take pictures and buy things on our mobile phones, most of us would have said “no way.” Yet, today we do it, and we do it a lot. If at the same time someone told you that one of the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailers and largest book retailer would be so greatly affected by this new media reality that they would be out of business or on the way out in 2011 — again we would have all said “no way!” Yet, that is a reality.

Clearly, media is very different than it was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 2 years ago … and that will continue. That will be the constant, the new norm.

The question, “What is the future of media?” in my opinion, is not about how we are consuming the media (i.e. platforms, tools), where we are consuming the media (i.e. home, office, multi-screen) or what we do with the media (i.e. share it, buy it). The question should be “How will we as businesses manage it?”

Currently, there is a huge issue plaguing the entire media experience for businesses.

Let’s take the new topic du jour – social media. I’ll quote my friend, Gary Vaynerchuk: “Most businesses are using social media like a 19 year old boy trying to close on the first date.” And I 100% agree. Media is clearly progressing, yet businesses are not progressing in how they manage it. Corporations still want to apply a bogus process to how they manage this new media future, and that is not going to work — how businesses have managed media and that experience in the past will not serve the future. Some businesses will fail because of this. Some already have.

Let’s stick with social media for example purposes of this discussion and tie it to real life consumer experiences. Most businesses and brands, although saying they are engaged in social media, are not. Adding fans and “likes” and followers is not engaging with your customers. Posting/tweeting once a week or once a day is not engagement. Look, I’ll be honest, most businesses don’t even communicate with and engage with their customers in the real world, so why would they now think they can communicate in social media? They are lying to themselves, and there has never been a better time to be truthful and critical with your business practices.

Take Verizon, for instance. I spend over $340 a month (personally) with Verizon between my mobile service, my wife’s mobile service, two data plans and two MiFi service plans. Yet, do I ever get a thank you or an engagement that does not require me to add some feature and pay them more? Hell no. And guess what – I hate Verizon for that. I’m a customer that spends over $4,080 a year with a brand, and I get no thank you. Not a single, “Mr. Parker, you are a great customer, and here is how we can help you do more with the services for which you already pay us a substantial fee.” CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

My brand loyalty and experience is very low — I still use them, but will only do so as long as I have to, and a lot of others feel the same way. Don’t believe me? Take two minutes and go to the Verizon Facebook page. They post a couple times a day usually, but it is all self-serving. See the comments: no discussion with customers.

None! Really, their strategy is nothing more than what they do for TV – push a message, push a message, push a message – and guess what? Unfortunately, that translates in how they engage and communicate with customers. They have not yet learned to manage media in a positive “new future” direction.

This is not meant to be a Verizon bashing. They just set themselves up well for it. Most others do, too. The key question you should be asking is: “Are we managing the future of media correctly to be successful?” I’m doubtful many can answer that with a resounding yes, and most that do are just lying to themselves.

If you don’t communicate with your customers in the “future of media” environment, you will lose them. And guess what? You fully deserve to lose them.