It means those websites where users add their own content, including Facebook, YouTube and assorted blogs, forums and sharing sites. 'Social media' is a new type of 'media', short for 'mass media', a term used since the 1920s. 'Social media' contrasts with 'traditional' media, where content is professionally produced for passive consumers. Less clear is who came up with the phrase, and when. An investigation by Forbes magazine last December found it goes back a long way. A former boss of the women's site iVillage, Tina Sharkey, says she started using it in 1994 and she owns the socialmedia.com domain name. Certainly, the fact she was able to buy it for $9.95 in 1999 suggests very few people were using the term then. But Forbes thinks the phrase was coined at AOL early in the 1990s. It has caught on because the alternatives are inadequate: 'social networks' doesn't encompass the whole picture, 'web 2.0' is geeky and 'consumer-generated media' is ungainly. So 'social media' is here to stay: until the next big thing.
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