Media Perspective: This election was fought (and lost by all) with old media

Nobody knows anything. William Goldman's famous old saw about Hollywood came even closer to universal application last week as the UK General Election unfolded in a vast cauldron of nobody knowing anything.

And the lack of someone knowing anything shows no sign of going away. At the time of writing, negotiations are still ongoing. We think. Like I said, nobody knows anything. And high on the list of non-knowers are the media opinionistas who have been blithely telling you what sort of election it's going to be.

Personally, I first got it wrong a few years back when I excitedly pronounced that the next election would be a YouTube election. That didn't happen, did it? That taught me a lesson and I think I've been more circumspect recently, careful to point out this time that while new or social media might have a role to play, it wouldn't be a dominant one, likely to be about activist motivation, not mass opinion.

Plenty of people, though, were willing to jump into that gap and we all read about how important Twitter and Facebook were going to be in this election. But then, as the campaign unfurled and the TV debates turned everything over and the newspapers changed their allegiances, we were soon told that, in fact, this was a resolutely old-media election. Twitter had changed nothing. Old media had won it. The TV debate created the Liberal moment, TV reporting revealed the "bigoted woman" comment. Fair enough, we all thought, and we sat down to watch a new government take power.

Except, of course, it didn't. The Liberal moment didn't arrive. Nick Clegg's success in the debates led to fewer seats than last time. All the raw power of the Murdoch press couldn't definitively oust the most unpopular Prime Minister in decades. All Labour's celebrity movies couldn't spare them from defeat.

So what can we learn? I have no idea. Certainly regular advertising seems to have lost its cultural potency; there's not an ad-generated image we'll be remembering in future years - except to point out how it was messed around with. Saatchis didn't win it. Maybe Labour's relative success in local elections indicates its Obama-style grassroots programme got some traction.

But, simply, we don't know. It's all too complex. Mumsnet might have been influential, but with an influence that was offset somewhere else.

We just can't tell, because each individual moment gets swallowed up by the overall complexity. This election wasn't built out of decisive moments, even if that was how it was reported. It was a long messy sequence of people trying things, some of it working, and nobody knowing anything. And that, my friends, is the future of media.

Topics