We live in a brave new digital world -- where technology drives new transformative ways to connect, communicate, share, sell, entertain, influence and impact. Disruptive new ways to tell stories – find an audience for those stories – and enable that audience to engage with those stories (and with each other).
Just look around you. Everyone you see right now is likely online, looking down, desperately clutching his or her mobile phone – and holding it virtually every waking hour (and increasingly while sleeping to measure night-time success). Why? To “connect” (albeit, virtually), collect, consume and share ever-increasing volumes of content. Some of that content is social. Some educational (even health-related). Some is motivational and inspirational. Others, marketing and commerce. And much of it is entertainment (and increasingly entertaining).
All of that content – those stories – no matter how good, bad, impactful, commercial, or not – is media that now, for the first time, has the opportunity to reach virtually anyone, anytime, anywhere on the planet over the Internet and through that mobile device. Through that extension of the self. Our lifeline in this borderless world. After all, we now live in a world with more mobile devices (7 billion!) than people on our planet. Just think about that reach.
I call this technology-infused content revolution “Media 2.0” -- and its accelerated pace over just the past few years has been astounding. Media 2.0 impacts all of us. In ways we realize, but many (most?) we don’t (and won’t until we look back years from now). It’s up to content creators -- and the ecosystem that supports them, including business executives, marketers, distributors, investors, technology enablers -- to seize that opportunity and make content that is impactful, effective, engaging. And, if creators successfully accomplish that, then here’s the most exciting part – that creator will not be alone in getting the message out. Now, invisible armies of messengers will do that for them. I like what I see, hear or read – and I tell two friends … and so on … and so on. I – on the receiving end -- become the broadcaster (check this out – a whopping 92% of mobile video viewers share those videos with others).
And, before you know it, together, we transform a lonely kid in Sweden into social media superstar PewDiePie with 50 million subscribers around the planet and a payday of well over $12 million in 2015. Or, we share a clever little video en masse – which then goes viral -- and transform a tiny upstart e-commerce company into quasi lifestyle media company Dollar Shave Club that Unilever acquired in 2016 for $1 billion. Dollar Shave Club leveraged Media 2.0 to break out of nowhere.
Of course, as with any tectonic (“tech-tonic”?) shift, potential seismic downsides exist. After all, technology – which enabled creation of the mass media and entertainment business in the first place -- has threatened it ever since. Evolving technology, by its very nature, disrupts the order of things. Established rules of the game. Lucrative business models. That’s why when faced with a changing world of technology (which will always be the case), fear and loathing permeates the ranks of those in power in “traditional” media and entertainment (television with radio, and the Betamax with television and motion pictures, just to name two). The immediate instinct by many is to either ignore that technology or lash out against it.
But, you know what? In all of these cases – with the exception of the current digital revolution where the jury is still out – technological advancements and transformation ultimately led to more overall media and entertainment content consumption and industry success, not less. Technology expanded the overall pie. Massively.
That doesn’t mean that there is no pain. There always is in periods of technology-driven disruption, and I am not minimizing that. Many relevant players change over time and some even disappear (Blockbuster anyone?). But, the overall market and monetization opportunity has always gone in one direction only -- up and to the right. New multi-billion dollar companies emerge in record time (Snapchat – yes, very much a Media 2.0 company -- in less than five years). New business models also emerge and settle in based on new rules of the game established by those industry players who take action. Who are fearless.
That’s the opportunity here.
So, I am optimistic that our current digital revolution ultimately will do the same for the world of media and entertainment. After all, although the forces behind it can be unsettling, frequently daunting and even outright scary, they offer never-before-possible game-changing opportunities. More stories to tell, and more ways to tell them. More opportunities to connect and tell those stories. More audiences to reach, and more ways to reach them. More opportunities to monetize.
And, here’s the exciting part. If creators and those supporting them do their jobs right, Media 2.0 also gives consumers a windfall. More and “better” content that speaks uniquely to them as individuals. More compelling stories – from more voices – and with more perspectives. More stories they will re-tell to their own networks.
Everyone wins (or at least has a shot of winning … so long as they take action).
And that’s Media 2.0’s punch line – its fundamental lesson and universal truth. You can’t harness Media 2.0’s power and potential to thrive (let alone survive) if you aren’t in the game in the first place. Passivity holds no role in Media 2.0. It is a time for action, not reaction.
Why did the television business settle on the twenty-two minute sitcom format (with eight minutes of commercials to round out the half hour)? Why does terrestrial radio pay no licensing royalties to music labels and artists when online radio does? Certainly these realities weren’t preordained by some higher power. And, they aren’t just historical anomalies. Those realities were defined by those who took action at the time. Boldly. And these and other rules of the game still hold today -- decades later – and have defined the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars to players in the overall media and entertainment space over the years.
So, act upon the need to “act.” Start some fires internally. Hire the best teams you can, and strip out layers of bureaucracy to empower them (don’t just say that, do it!). Invest significantly in understanding Media 2.0. Experiment -- even if you don’t have “it” figured out (like a convincing traditional business model). Take solace in the fact that no one does. Things move too fast and the old rules likely simply do not apply. Rapidly iterate. Create, but fail fast (destroying what doesn’t work). Be tenacious. Relentless. Otherwise, the competition – indeed your entire business – may pass you by.
I call this mind and action set “fearless media.”