En­trepreneurs in Me­dia

The Insider - - CONTENT -


Isome­times won­der if the fu­ture of our in­dus­try would be dif­fer­ent if more me­dia ex­ec­u­tives em­braced the dis­rup­tion caused by the ad­vance­ments in so­ci­ety and tech­nol­ogy with the free, un­fet­tered and open-minded spirit as the fa­mous Amer­i­can cos­mol­o­gist.

But when one looks at the “who’s who” of pub­lish­ing, one can’t help but won­der how some of these se­nior veter­ans, most of whom started at the bot­tom and worked (or in­her­ited) their way up the cor­po­rate lad­der, could ever en­vi­sion a fu­ture with en­tre­pre­neur­ial eyes when they view dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion as more of a curse than a cure.

It’s not that pub­lish­ers didn’t try to make money off dig­i­tal, they just couldn’t let go of print model par­a­digms that would never work with to­day’s new breed of dig­i­tal news snack­ers who refuse to “pay to play” in­side their walled gar­dens.

So while tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers con­tin­ued to try and put the tooth­paste back into the tube, one young vi­sion­ary after an­other stepped up to the dig­i­tal di­a­mond to cap­i­tal­ize on the chaos brought forth by the World Wide Web. De­spite the fact that the ma­jor­ity of read­ers will never pay for dig­i­tal news, most me­dia ex­ec­u­tives con­tinue to chase sub­scrip­tion rev­enue. Mean­while the Ti­tans of Tech are fo­cus­ing on grow­ing mas­sive au­di­ences through so­cially or al­go­rith­mi­cally cu­rated news, which they then mon­e­tize through mo­bile ad­ver­tis­ing. Last year 67% of mo­bile dis­play ad rev­enue was mo­nop­o­lized by 5 com­pa­nies – none of which were news or­ga­ni­za­tions.

As­tronomer Carl Sa­gan once said "Some­where, some­thing in­cred­i­ble is wait­ing to be known.”

As me­dia brand eq­uity fades and big rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties slip through pub­lish­ers’ fin­gers as fast as their sto­ries hit

Ap­ple News and Face­book In­stant Ar­ti­cles, it’s hard to imag­ine a pros­per­ous fu­ture for an in­dus­try that has spent the last 16 years fail­ing to “rein­vent it­self”.

But what’s in­ter­est­ing in these “in­ter­est­ing times” is that the foun­da­tion upon which pub­lish­ing was built and flour­ished since the 16th cen­tury is the tal­ented pool of jour­nal­ists and edi­tors who have cho­sen to make kings in­stead of be­ing one them­selves. Per­haps it’s time for that to change…

Let’s face it, most jour­nal­ists are still con­sid­ered re­place­ment parts in an en­gine that’s about to throw a rod. They are treated as dis­pos­able com­modi­ties that can be re­placed as eas­ily as printer ink.

So it’s no won­der that while high tech, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, health­care, con­struc­tion, re­tail, hos­pi­tal­ity, pro­fes­sional ser­vices and other in­dus­tries are all work­ing hard to make the “100 best places to work” list, not even the most re­spected pub­lish­ing houses in the US have made the grade. Look­ing at the pub­lish­er­jour­nal­ist value equa­tion…

1. If you re­move the pub­lisher from it, what will hap­pen? Jour­nal­ists may tem­po­rar­ily lose the fund­ing for in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing, travel, etc., but cap­i­tal will come from other sources:

• Kick­starter has spent over US$9 mil­lion fund­ing jour­nal­ists from dozens of coun­tries in 6 con­ti­nents

• Google is in­vest­ing in News Lab – an ini­tia­tive to em­power in­no­va­tion at the in­ter­sec­tion of tech­nol­ogy and me­dia, cre­at­ing a new plat­form for “me­dia en­trepreneurs”

• Ap­ple is hir­ing jour­nal­ists for Ap­ple News (cu­ra­tion is just the begin­ning)

• LinkedIn re­launched Pulse look­ing for it to be­come the world’s first per­son­al­ized busi­ness news digest

• News ag­gre­ga­tors are in­tro­duc­ing chan­nels to help jour­nal­ists/colum­nists ex­pand their au­di­ence, grow their pro­fes­sional brands and show­case/mon­e­tize their con­tent/ opin­ions

2. If you sub­tract jour­nal­ists, what do you end up with? Com­modi­tized wire ser­vices.

The po­ten­tial ben­e­fits for jour­nal­ists to be­come en­trepreneurs are en­tic­ing, in­clud­ing the:

• Op­por­tu­nity to grow brand eq­uity for them­selves rather than their pub­lish­ers

• Free­dom to cre­ate con­tent with­out ed­i­to­rial interference • End of Na­tive/Brand Ad­ver­tis­ing as­sign­ments

• Elim­i­na­tion of legacy bag­gage: print­ing, dis­tri­bu­tion, unions, etc.

It’s not easy be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur, and not all writ­ers will thrive as con­tent ty­coons, but the money, tools and tech­nol­ogy are there for many of them to cap­i­tal­ize on their tal­ents and the op­por­tu­ni­ties dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion brings to their pro­fes­sion.

Which is ex­actly why the pub­lish­ing pow­ers-that-be need to start find­ing, re­cruit­ing and in­vest­ing in these young rene­gades of ref­or­ma­tion and launch a whole new breed of pub­lish­ing pi­o­neers ready to cre­ate a fu­ture of “some­thing in­cred­i­ble” in­stead of fall­ing vic­tim to Sa­gan’s law of evo­lu­tion -- “Ex­tinc­tion is the rule. Sur­vival is the ex­cep­tion.”

If I were a pub­lisher, I’d start knock­ing on a few garage doors

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