Sunday, November 22, 2009

"If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you're an idiot." Umberto Eco

"Life is too short not to do something that matters" Hugh MacLeod

"We think the Internet is moving completely toward mobile." Jeff Cole

Today's image: otono by Darco TT. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

The last post here included a mention of "unlearning" and marketing maven Tom Asacker offered a comment

...I think "unlearning" is nearly impossible. People simply can't "throw out all of the furniture," and knickknacks, memorabilia, etc. Instead, they need to pick up and move. It's during the move that they unload the old, useless collection of thoughts, routines, etc. New thinking comes from a new environment, not from a redecorated one.

Tom makes a thoughtful argument and I certainly agree that unlearning is difficult. It is Tom's notion to "pick up and move" that presents a uniquely interesting challenge. My thought is those leading today's media organizations are dedicating resources and a majority share of mind to business preservation. While there is an urgent need to develop new business models, an increasingly obvious need to get serious about the digital frontier, the oxygen required for such development must come from sustaining present revenues.

My sense is our media "house" can be likened to Dorothy's in The Wizard of Oz. Caught up in forces of the environment, we seem to have been struck unconscious whilst our "place" in the world is being forever changed. Our landing in a digital Oz however should not be confused with a dream. Much like Dorothy, we are living through an unexpected, disruptive, game-changing moment. It's every bit as dramatic as our awakening when watching the move. We suddenly see things in color after first coming to know, accept a "normal" world of black and white.

Media organizations, many being accountable to Wall Street, are operating to optimize near-term earnings. This mindset rewards the predictable outcome which fosters the twin enemies of innovation - incrementalism and institutionalized risk aversion. Activity becomes focused on optimizing the known numerator. Optimization alone will produce earnings growth but only to a finite point. Once every variable that can be influenced has been optimized growth inevitably stalls, the street is disappointed. Management makes references to peer performance, sector issues and impact of the macroeconomic environment. Beware the bad comp, know its potential in creating an illusion of progress.

The real danger is running on empty, leading a portfolio of so-called wasting assets. Continuing a die hard devotion to tweaking what is without imagining other futures.

The rate of innovation outside of media organizations is greater than inside. This should serve as the first engine warning light flashing. When school children and other amateurs can produce and upload a YouTube video that gets more views and comments than the expensive scripted shows running in prime we should understand it's time to have an adult conversation. When the majority of top ranked social media users in any given DMA are listeners and viewers (the group formerly known as the audience) rather than media properties, or professional media creators it seems time to entertain a serious discussion concerning what's happening, what's not happening and how we might influence the action going forward.

This is not a dress rehearsal
We are professionals
This is the big time

On with the show

We must discover ways to create new markets, new denominators and, it seems to me, that will require moving to the new environment that Tom writes about. He's right on the money. In 2010 orchestrating that move effectively will become your other full-time job. Having a keen sense of place has, perhaps, never been more important nor more potentially rewarding. My thanks to Tom Asacker.

In sum, we need to do - as Hugh MacLeod suggests - something that matters. Let me encourage you to begin that process by investing some time today to watch a video. It's the Jeff Cole keynote at last week's MPR hosted Future of News Summit. It's about what's happening around us and deserves your attention. You may access the video via YouTube, here. Watch, share with your team, think, discuss, dream, create.

Bonus: I'll Tumblr For Ya. The David Karp interview by Ned Hepburn via VICE, here.

Tweet of the Week: Killer. My thanks to Timesman and uber-cool Twitterer Patrick LaForge. View tweet, here.

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