Dynamic image of a graffiti artist spray painting a colorful mural on an urban wall. The artist, dressed in casual streetwear and a protective mask, is in motion, wielding a spray can against a backdrop of a cityscape with buildings and street lights. The mural features bright, intricate designs, adding a vibrant touch to the urban setting.

“The Medium is the message” is the most famous and enduring line from media theorist Marshall McLuhan.

This idea takes a bit of effort to fully understand. I found it helpful to really emphasize the ‘is’.

“The medium IS the message”

What does this mean?

It’s a bit of overstatement to emphasize a counterintuitive truth.

The message is the raw information transmitted.

The medium is the form the information takes.

The sum of medium and message is communication — the complete impression made on the recipient.

McLuhan is trying to show us this critical observation: the form of the information communicates more than the information itself.

Two contrasting examples:

  • Graffiti is illegal and risky — choosing it as the medium communicates (quite convincingly) that the artist is subversive and counterculture, regardless of what they paint.
  • A peer-reviewed scientific paper published in a journal is challenging and rare — choosing it as the medium communicates that the author is respected and approved by the academic establishments, regardless of what they write.

Through this lens, books are the ultimate medium.

Writing a book is the. best. way. to demonstrate your experience and expertise.

That ‘author’ is the root word of ‘authority’ is no coincidence.

Authors receive authority.

We all inherently know this, through the folk saying “she wrote the book on it.”

So, what should you do? Write the book.

If you are a consultant or expert being paid for your unique knowledge… writing a book is the right medium.

The value is not just what you write in the book — but that you wrote a book.

Putting the same information out in a blog or an online course just does not achieve the same impact. It communicates something else, because it is a different medium.

Blogs as a medium tend to communicate: “this is an evolving thought of low conviction or importance. I just wanted a place to put it out there easily and cheaply.”

Courses as a medium tend to communicate: “I wanted to charge as much as possible for this information. You are expected to consume it by sitting at a computer, and apply it immediately to get the value you’re paying.”

Both are valuable and important. But neither can replace the credibility associated with producing a book. The medium is the message, and authors receive authority.

If you’re thinking ’that’s ridiculous, it’s the same information and blogs are very efficient’ — I am sympathetic to that view. And from a first-impression, strictly rational perspective, it’s true.

But it’s not what other people think, and certainly not how they act. Because the medium is the message.

When was the last time you saw someone interviewed on a podcast because of their online course? Or on TV for the launch of their blog?  But you see this all the time when an author publishes their book!

The world has a pattern of respecting, honoring, and sharing the ideas published in books.