I went to my first media event (well, that I wasn’t running anyway) for the first time in about two years this week and it felt wierdly surreal. I think it had something to do with the fact that I hadn’t done it for so long, yet it was so eerily familiar as well. There were only about eight or nine journos there, but among them were Brad Howarth and Louisa Hearn, who I both worked with on Computerworld about ten years ago, Gus Kidman who started in tech media on the very same day I did, Len Rust who has been around for as long as anyone I know can remember, and Vic Lea, who was the first journo I hired to come work with me on MediaConnect!
Anyway, the event was a media roundtable to discuss the upcoming Future of Media summit being held by Ross Dawson’s Future Exploration Network. Anyway, I’m hardly about to miss the chance to sit around over a free launch and gab about the future of media, plus MediaConnect is a partner of the event, so up I rocked.
Ross gave an opening presentation where he talked about all the usual Web 2.0/new medi a trends that we in this corner of the blogosphere tend to rant about ad nauseam. However, what Ross has done is wrapped all of that up into a Strategic Framework that the Future Exploration Network is interestingly publishing under the Creative Commons License.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the graphic on the Web but FEN have done a really, nice job of mapping all of this stuff into a nice pretty picture.
As I’m quickly discovering though, for me, the event really got worthwhile when the discussion opened up and it got me thinking somewhat about a number of issues about the media and by the end of the event, I think everyone was wishing I’d shut up. But hey, I don’t get to these kinds of things very often, so I was making the most of it!
Anyway, the point that kept coming home to me, and the factor I think is missing from the Strategic Framework is that it doesn’t factor in the two most important concepts in media which is 1) value and 2) sustainability. During the round table we talked about things like professional vs amateur content, local vs global, format and distribution wars, but in the end the only thing that matters is value to the consumer.
In the past, value has been just one factor in the media equation. Of equal, or even more importance has been largely economic factors like distribution costs, revenue income, staffing, etc. But those walls have been largely torn down. It is possible to start a kick-arse media company with absolutely no money if you’ve got a compelling enough content product in the right market. As I mentioned in a recent blog, TechCrunch has proved that.
All that matters is which SUSTAINABLE formula can best meet the readers information/entertainment needs. It doesn’t matter if its professional or amateur, text or video, distributed to mobile phones or the web. All that matters is that the end experience for the user is the most compelling offering around. Users will go where the VALUE is.
It’s up to all media companies to cut up the four spheres that this framework is based upon – content, format, distribution, revenue – and simply come up with the best value proposition for the reader/viewer/listener. The trick of course is that for every reader that’s going to be different, which is where the challenge of finding the point of sustainability arises.
And sustainability doesn’t have to be monetary but I do believe it will always come down to payback. Nobody does anything for nothing. Whether it be fiscal payback or emotional/intellectual/sexual/ego payback – the content generator or editor needs some form of compensation for their efforts and the creators of social media need to think very carefully about where that comes from and if it can be sustained, how can it be sustained.
I still look at 95 per cent of Web 2.0/new media plays and to me its glaringly obvious that they haven’t even begun to solve this equation.
Anyway, for me that was one of two big picture issues that are now glaringly central to the future of the media. The other is, does the media have a future at all? I’ll try and blog on that one tomorrow.