Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why." Hunter S. Thompson

"Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today's jobs with yesterday's tools." Marshall McLuhan

"As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men's minds more seriously than what they see." Julius Caesar

Today's image: 007 by honan4108. Amazing. Thank you for sharing.

The media player wars

Ephemeral solutions

Art as metaphor

Dave Winer, quoted in a new writing [Who controls your data?] by Doc Searls, says "The tech industry is organized around the concept of wars...if there's money to be made in controlling users, there's been a war to lock those users in...Having seen a number of these wars, and seeing each of them end not in triumph, but irrelevance, I believe we're getting closer to the end of the warfare defined by social networks...Open is a funny thing, you can't be partially open. You can't edge your way toward open. You can't be open and hold the valuable stuff in reserve for yourself." Brilliant.

My thought is the big media companies are engaged in a war of media players. Resources are being dedicated in yet another protracted online battle, the spoils being the solution needed to cut the Gordian knot known as lock in. The rules of engagement are clear - the best walled garden wins. The flaw is in the logic driving these efforts. Media companies are focused on developing a unilateral advantage based on remaining solely in the import business (i.e., importing viewers and listeners). This mindset fails to recognize the increasing irrelevance of the home page and the need to develop new business models based on getting into the nascent business of export (i.e., exporting content). My suggestion here is we are reaching the point of incremental optimization as it relates to Web 1.0 and need to get serious about concurrent Web 2.0 development. Broadcasters no strangers to "live" have an urgent need to focus resources and share of agenda on the "Live Web."

The latest generation of media players deployed by big media continue, by design, to perpetuate the walled garden and with it the mythical quest for lock in. To prosper in the coming sea change, one in part driven by social media, content needs to be digital, discoverable, export friendly and truly platform agnostic. Today's media player solutions are ephemeral. The latest player initiative by CBS Radio while a step in the right direction is just that - only a step. There are miles to go before they sleep and please read that as praise and no disrespect for the nothing less than jump to light speed made by Dan Mason and his colleagues. The CBS Radio initiative seems fundamentally distracted, it's perhaps an elegant present day solution to one of yesterday's problems - online streaming. One hopes there's something Media-Web 2.0 cooking in the digital kitchens of Quincy Smith.

While we're talking CBS let me set the record straight and give Dan Mason some credit he is not getting elsewhere. It has been proffered that Dan's CBS could care less about appealing to the youth market, this is suggested within the context of the larger imperfect argument that the youth no longer listen to radio. Patently false on both counts. During Dan's watch CBS has started up stations targeting youth - Houston and Portland being two recent examples. This is to say nothing of the successful youth targeted stations he continues to support. Proponents of this defective argument are quick to cite the return of WCBS-FM as the defining moment of the Mason presidency when the facts more fairly suggest that was but one defining moment. Stay tuned.

The majority of American youth still listen to radio and being told by their elders that they do not only serves to confirm what these digital natives know instinctively to be true - their grandparents really are a clueless bunch. Permit me to disabuse you of the pure nonsense that states one can only program with any success to the "available" older audience. Radio Disney Q.E.D. Further, in my book the "available audience" is defined as any person with respiration, heart beat and the strength to operate a radio and assistance can be provided to the latter. My sense is Dan being a smart guy, a good business person, wants every cohort possible tuned into at least one CBS station (or product of CBS Radio provenance no matter the delivery platform). Closed circuit to the wags - we live in a world of AND not OR. The zero sum games of yesterday are alive and relevant only in your own head.

Going forward, what next? Rather than using war or any other military metaphor please allow me to introduce another. I've often wondered what metaphors are used by the military since common sense would suggest they must use something. General Sir Rupert Smith is author of a new book The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World [Amazon info]. In this important work Sir Rupert argues a revolution, a new paradigm must occur in our conception of war. This follows earlier seminal writings on the subject of 4GW (Fourth-generation warfare) including the remarkable writing of Col Thomas X. Hammes - The Sling and The Stone [Amazon info]. Sir Rupert introduces art as metaphor, specifically he uses the Impressionists, those guys who once broke all the rules of academic painting.

He makes the point that the Impressionists were trained as Realists and became Impressionists. They used the same paint, the same brush, the same canvas and the same objects however they expected a different outcome. They re-created the sensation in the eye. They were hated for it, their work dismissed. What media needs now in my view is to break free of a confining and limiting mindset, a perspective that is in fact a major obstacle to real innovation. The broadcast business model is operating past its best used by date.

We have no lack of critics, modern day aspiring Lewis Leroy types more concerned with preserving the status quo of best practice than giving consideration to the new and appreciating any taking of calculated risk. Critics preoccupied with moving a tweaked, optimized version of some preferred celebrated past forward rather than being obsessed with competing for the future by way of innovation including abandonment. These critics will no doubt find fault with any and all attempts at radical re-invention but re-invention and innovation are the must haves no longer optional. Simply put they are the price of entry in a new game that is already in progress. The dogs bark, but the caravan is moving on. Best to keep the wise counsel of William Gibson "...the future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed."

Damn the rule takers, let the rule breakers and rule makers unite to make amazing things happen. Let the messy stuff of creative collaboration and innovation begin in earnest. Let us stop wasting valuable time trying to get better and let us start making those investments needed to get different, dramatically different. Let us paint!

Bonus: twictionary

Music video: Duffy, the 23-year-old Welsh pop singer is the goods. Check her out via YouTube.

Congrats & cheers: Microsoft Research opens WorldWide Telescope to the public. Very cool [Related video - Scoble interviews Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay project leads at Microsoft] Sam Zell on his flawless sale of Newsday. Sprout on their raise and using their product (below) to make the announcement and advance the demo - savvy! Finally, upon his departure from Bear Stearns, we salute Vic Miller. Vic's performance was exemplary, he brought honor to his firm, credit to his profession and insight to those of us in measured media made better by his consistently cogent observation. Best wishes, Vic - may all your dreams come true.