Big Old Media for Hire / New Life from Apparent Death

I’ve had more than one person re-tweet or comment on posts of mine saying how “big” or “old” media don’t “get it”.  To be clear, that is not my intent.  My goal is to not be seen as from some sort of “new” school of media anymore than it is to be viewed as from an “old” one.

 

Though I am fascinated with, not to mention pretty much vested in, the media business and have plenty of thoughts and opinions on the matter that I’ve shared and will continue to share freely, I am more fascinated with why people do the things they do with the hardware and software that makes up their experiences with media – which ultimately drives the media business.

 

Perhaps this fascination with why people do the things they do with media is the “it” the “big”, “old” media companies don’t “get” in their pursuit of profits.   Fully respecting they are indeed in business to turn a profit, said profit cannot be turned without understanding that the dynamics of why and how people use media has changed.

 

In his book Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky puts it thusly:
 
“But what if all this time, providing professional content isn’t the only job we’ve been hiring media to do?  What if we’ve also been hiring it to make us feel connected, engaged, or just less lonely?  What if we’ve always wanted to produce as well as consume, but no one offered us that opportunity?”

 

I felt this confluence of what people hire media to do vs. what media companies’ need to do to turn a profit come to life as I read the cover story from Wired, The Web is Dead, a well done chicken-and-egg, point-counterpoint on the shift from web usage to Internet-driven app usage (Yes, Virginia, they're really is a difference between the web and the Internet). 

 

My abridged version:

·         The benefit of the shift to Internet-driven apps for people is they can easily get what they want, when they want it, and it works better and faster than a web-based experience.  People save time two ways – by not having to look as hard for what they want and apps tend to perform better/faster than the web.

·         The benefit to media companies is these are semi-walled or entirely walled experiences they can fully control for which they can charge – either directly for the app or using the app as a gateway to charging for something that the app links to. 

·         And due to the aforementioned benefits of time savings and better experience, people are OK paying for it.

 

One thing “big”, “old” media does “get” is producing content or experiences that are contained and they have full control over (see TV programs, magazines, newspapers, etc).  And now they can allow people to build upon and share this content and/or experience via the Internet thru connections to other apps for social networks – or maybe even on the web (though it is apparently on its last legs – hold that thought).  Thus, the value – both in terms of the value people perceive from being able to do what they want with the content as well as the potentially claimed media value from more impressions – increases for everyone involved in this foodchain.

 
Ultimately, people feel they get an honest day’s work from the media they hired, proving yet again that people are willing to part with money if it means they save time, especially if they are able to save time in two ways. 

 

Ta da.  “Big”, “old” media gets “it”.

 

But I do believe the “death” of the web is greatly over exaggerated – obviously in order to sell magazines (oh, those “big”, “old” media and their marketing tactics).  In spite of the bleakness of the cover, Chris Anderson – editor in chief of Wired and the man who literally wrote the book on Free – does come around as he closes:

 

“…the great virtue of today’s Web is that so much of it is noncommercial.  The wide-open Web of peer production, the so-called generative Web where everyone is free to create what they want, continues to thrive, driven by the nonmonetary incentives of expression, attention, reputation and the like.” 

 

This makes me think of the web as a big, old R&D sandbox for figuring out the next great app – dare I say “killer” app that could deliver a monetary incentive.  And maybe now we can stop having to hear “big”, “old” media lament the “pennies” they make on the web compared to the “dollars” of profit from their “old” media outlets.

 
I think what this begs for from those of us in the business is to move from a commitment to be, as a colleague of mine recently pointed out, “media neutral” to “media positive”, or, as I countered to my colleague, from “media agnostic” to “media religious”.  As “big”, “old” media finds opportunity for profit in “new” places, we have to commit ourselves to finding relevant opportunity for people to hire the media we plan, buy and/or create, be it “old” or “new”, “digital” or “analog”. 
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