Contents, before, where written in an newspaper, recorded or broadcast through the radio or the TV, published on a book, etc. Nowadays, contents continue to be that, but they may be stored and shared digitally. It means, whatever content we had, we just convert it into digits, into binary code, and then we are phisically talking about digits. No matter the language, the topic, or the platform for which they were created, contents are digits.
Because contents are digits, and because the final goal of a content business is to spread contents around the world, there is a clear trend towards standarization: we standarize advertising formats (iab), we use a few winner content publishing formats, like PDF, JPG, etc. We clearly assume that inventing a new format to publish images would be nonsense and totally out of our core business. Making this would out of our focus as media. It does not mean that other businesses have a mission to facilitate and improve imaging and endeavour in improving formats to publish images, but this is just peripherical for a media business and we do not compete with each other in this area.
We sell ideas, and they are supported on digits that carry them. Those digits are not the core to our business but the message they bring. Aditionally, the fact that our media essence could be heterogeneus in the past but we all end up flowing to the same river, converging, put us in a situation similar to all of us going to the same wedding, but in a different car, through the same road, so we are all in an unnecessary bottleneck. All of us bought a car, filled it out with petrol, paid our car insurance, and, because we are all going to the same point in our car, we will arrive later than we would arrive if we had all bought a bus, and it will cost us more money. We are media, not techonlogy business.
At the end of the day, we all try to maximize the number of digits we distribute to human, through devices. Out of romanticism, that is a content business. As content sellers we demand time. Everything is transactional, we give you contents, you give us time.
Then, audience may use any device, any language, any moment, to get to our digits. As long as an audience get to our digits and not our competitors we are wining marketshare.
- we buy time
- we sell ideas
- physically, ideas, no matter the language or the topic, nowadays are digits
With the boom of new technologies, the main worry among media businesses was to develop channels to distribute binary code to final customers and so, everyone thought a responsibility of a content business was to become a techonological organization in order to build up the platforms to make our binary reaching earlier. And this approach was probably right for that moment. Getting into the war of developing channels to transfer statements was similar to entering into the business of growing trees just because books are printed on paper; it could work, it could be perfectly fine as vertical integration but it would be very likely that someone else made better paper and we had to print our contents in his paper. Normally, publishing industry did never controled the paper production industry. So what? The same happens with new technologies, that are our new paper, we do not control it and we will never control it. Media should not pay so much attention to controling technology, but to understanding it and bringing it down to the place it gets something useful for their readers. It is an important tool but not our main business.
We are is still in the business of buying time and transferring statements to an audience, and, in fact, with new techonologies, we will exchange statements with our audience better than ever before. Bringing contents down to common physical elements: digits, opens a clear path for global media integration. Digital convergence would have as a natural outcome a global media convergence. Differentiation would be in the statements communicated while digital integration makes it easier than ever to integrate our channels creating huge sinergyes in contents revenue generation.
If technology is not yet a commodity , it will be soon a commodity , and it will get cheaper. You may get some first mover advantaje, but it’s not a key for sustaining your long term media business up and running.
Conclusion: we got the same product, digits, and global media do not compete in the tools to make digits reach their audience. Global media could digitally merge (at least top media groups) in order to get stronger technology with scale economies and concentrate in differentiation through contents.
January 14, 2009 2 Comments
What do you find when you look around at the supermarket? If you look carefully to product tags, you will find Unilever, L’ORÉAL, Procter&Gamble, and a bunch of corporations that virtually control everybrand in every product category in each market around the world. When it comes to media (even some people already worry on Media concentration as a potential problem for democracy, and that would be a topic for another post) we still find a group of more or less isolated smaller corporations at least, by language communities. New Information Systems and Technologies (not just Internet), open ways to integrate projects and cooperate profiting from economies of scale that would still help transforming media businesses and making it sustainable by reducing costs. This may be one of the reasons why, even being spanish, I insist in blogging in English. I really see no point on continuing with local, or regional (defining region as a linguistici community) in media business organizations. We can be local in news, but global in corporations, and, my view is that global multiplatform corporations would be necessary to have stronger media and a more independent journalism around the world.
This is just a brief note to advance my coming posts that will try to develop my point of view on how, as media businesses, we could improve our efficiency to serve a better (and cheaper) product to final customers through global integration:
(ii) Currently, cross border media integration is under-developed (exception made of new/pure players online)
(iii) Digital convergence has a logical evolution towards integration (softer or harder integration, depends). If not merging, Media should integrate in information systems and, still, traditional media could contribute creating standards that would put them in a situation of privilege.
January 12, 2009 Comments Off
Let’s have a look to what is going on with sports, because it is paralel to media business. Sports teams and players are content creators.
Sport, as a digital content, is mainly one shot. If you miss the final of a world cup and you know the result, your interest for the content is much lower. In the other hand, quality is important, but not critical, so, a decent streaming can perfectly provide you with the service of watching that game you want to see.
In the other hand, sports leagues have grown mainly on TV rights revenues. All others revenues are minor compared with the cash generated by selling content rights.
These two factors combined with the growing speed of Internet access easily provides us with a complex scenario for professional sports and media business exploiting them.
In the USA, the lack of agreement between cable operators and leagues resulted, occasionally on availability for the content online through piracy instead of being available through “legal” means. In fact, it was one of the first mistakes of music industry, it was not just that you would not like to pay for the content; it was mainly that you couldn’t find it. That pushes people to other ways of getting contents they want and once they get used to those alternatives paths, changing this dynamic gets more challenging.
The need for having live sports streaming available as soon as possible is increasingly urgent… but… it won’t stop other ways of getting those contents for free. It won’t be a solution by itself, it is already too late because people got used to enjoying contents for free.
Are we going to see footballers or NBA players, like musicians, campaigning against piracy? Probably not, but we will see audiences fragmented into many different sports and probably much less incredibly highly paid superstars. Will advertisings budgets grow to compensate previously pay per view models?
With journalism moving to citizen journalism + aggregation (according to most radical views), we may well see a similar process in professional sports players. In fact, if you follow the logic and apply to other professions, you may reach the conclusion that we tend to amateurism (to some extent, or, hyper specialization) and copy-pasting or further analyzing by others.
I got no objections to the new model of managing our intellectual property. On the contrary, I think it will speed up human kind knowledge and evolution, but, let’s assume it when making up our business plans for the future.
January 7, 2009 Comments Off
In a document from Newspaper Association from America we find two business cases of small newspapers facing business transformation from print to mixed models (print/online): Times-Mail and Shakopee Valley News . Its title is very descriptive: How Two Smaller Newspapers Energized Their Web Strategies.
Both of them were newspapers with certain credibility and integration within their communities that were passing a critical time for their offline business.
This document tell us about the concrete transformation that took place, and it nowadays may look basic and obvious in practical terms, but there is something really not obvious for bigger companies:
1. Top management must be convinced that the change has to be pushed in a centralized (often top-down) way and taking the picture as a whole, both, in terms of contents and in terms of revenues. Revenues have to also be integrated in decision making so decisions are adopted taking into consideration impacts in both sides.
2. Workforce needs to be qualifed to really transform their skills otherwise they would be just a heavier weight in the mid term.
3. An out of the box vision and leadership may be very helpful in order to transform a media.
4. Community is a key factor, and as community leaders, we have to change the way we interact with our readers
5. Technology is not core to our business in a media company, it’s an instrument, a commodity, and it’s has to be at the service of the organization, and it cannot be a bottleneck. Of course having strong technology in-house remains an important factor but more in terms of know-how that when talking on execution. Technology is really important as rotaries were in the past (but not more than that).
These are my own conclusions from those very simple business cases and these conclusions are a kind of basic philosophy on how to transform a media. I find media companies losing their focus and goal because they believe they are something else. They believe they are a technology company, a software development company, a service provider… In other words, if we lack management consciousness, workforce qualification, out of the box visions, community interaction and technology aligned and at the service of our goals, it will be much more difficult for us to run a sustainable business.
October 31, 2008 Comments Off