Selon Eric, le fils de McLuhan, le titre originel du livre était Le médium est le message mais une erreur de l’imprimeur a transformé le « e » en « a » : "Le médium est le massage". McLuhan aurait pensé que l’erreur correspondait bien au message qu’il voulait faire passer dans le livre, et a décidé de la laisser. Par la suite, une interprétation a fait de ce titre un jeu de mot entre "message", « massage » et « mass age » (l’ère de la masse en anglais).
Marshall McLuhan argues that technologies — from clothing to the wheel to the book, and beyond — are the messages themselves, not the content of the medium. In essence, The Medium is the Massage is a graphical and creative representation of his “medium is the message” thesis seen in Understanding Media.
By playing on words and utilizing the term “massage,” McLuhan is suggesting that modern audiences have found current media to be soothing, enjoyable, and relaxing; however, the pleasure we find in new media is deceiving, as the changes between society and technology are incongruent and are perpetuating an Age of Anxiety.
All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. (p. 26)
The Medium is the Massage demonstrates how modern media are extensions of human senses; they ground us in physicality, but expand our ability to perceive our world to an extent that would be impossible without the media. These extensions of perception contribute to McLuhan’s theory of the Global Village, which would bring humanity full circle to an industrial analogue of tribal mentality.
Finally, McLuhan described key points of change in how man has viewed the world and how these views were changed by the adoption of new media. “The technique of invention was the discovery of the nineteenth [century]”, brought on by the adoption of fixed points of view and perspective by typography, while “[t]he technique of the suspended judgment is the discovery of the twentieth century”, brought on by the bard abilities of radio, movies and television.