Welcome to MediaReset.com

You’ve arrived at a blog about transforming the companies that publish newspapers. And it’s a blog with an unorthodox point of view.

Here it is: News will not save you.

Why not? Because the disruption that’s pounding newspaper companies is not about people Read the rest of this entry

Media disruption: Bad for us, wonderful for humanity

Disruption of the mass media is a big subject. But here’s an even bigger one: The incredible amount of good this same disruption is bringing to humanity worldwide.

So let’s forget about the mass media for a few minutes. Let’s take a look at the massive and mostly positive impact this digital revolution is having and will continue to have on humanity.

To begin, let’s look again at the “infinite pipe” graphic I’ve used several times before in this blog:

History of media - digital era copy

In this chart, the green pipe indicates how the flow of information among humans has expanded during our 200,000-year history – from almost nothing for many millennia to near infinity in just the last decade or so. A few weeks ago I wrote about this from the perspective of the media. Now let’s look at it from the perspective of humanity.

From that viewpoint, we must first acknowledge that this is not an equal-opportunity planet. Humans live in a wide range of information conditions. In fact, every information condition in humanity’s 200,000-year history still exists in some places on the globe.

In the industrialized — or informationized — parts of the world, we live at the right end of the chart, with nearly infinite access virtually all the time. But several billion people around the globe live in much less advanced conditions.

There are people living in information environments equivalent to the 1990s, the 1950s, the early 1900s, the 1600s and even before. That is, there are people who have no access to the Internet, people who have no access to radio and television and even people who have little or no access to print and couldn’t read if they did.

Now to the heart of the matter: What does information mean to a human being?

The human mind is, fundamentally, a choice-making engine. It processes information received through the five senses and makes choices and decisions that result in actions. And those actions are calculated to give us better results — more happiness, more enjoyment, better living, etc., in ways large and small.

Noticing that it’s cold in here, you may put on a sweater. Reading the labels in the supermarket aisle, you may decide to buy the breakfast cereal that’s lower in calories. Assessing your prospects in your job, you may decide it’s time to look for a new one.

We’re not just computers, of course — our choices and decisions are influenced by individual feelings, values, personalities and a host of other individual influences. But the fact is, incoming information is the fuel that drives human thought and action.

And here’s another key fact: New information is the only thing that changes a person’s behavior. A person will go on doing what he/she is doing right now, until — based on new information — he/she decides it’s time to do something different.

Okay, back to the graphic. As we go from left to right, through the course of human history, what’s happening? As the green pipe widens — individuals are gaining access to more and more information. And, as that happens, they make more choices and decisions — and change their behavior more often.

Hence the incredible acceleration of change in all aspects of society as we move from left to right on the graphic. At the left end of the chart, for millennia, human society changed only very gradually. Then the advent of printing resulted in the rise of literacy, which drove increasingly rapid political, economic and technological change. From the Dark Ages through the Renaissance, from mercantilism to the free market, from feudal systems to representative democracy, from the industrial era to the information era, the engine of change was the same: More information moving more people to new choices, new decisions and changes in behavior.

At the left end of the graphic, when word of mouth was the only information technology, only a few people (e.g., rulers, nobility and priests) had access to more information than the rest of humanity. And they didn’t have much. At the right end of the graphic, with full mass media and universal digital technologies, we are moving rapidly toward the ultimate condition, in which everyone has access to all information.

The 21st century is the hinge point. During this century, we will see an incredible advance toward the ultimate condition. That’s why the smartphone is the most radical revolutionary technology ever devised. It is enabling and will enable huge segments of humanity to leapfrog hundreds of years, from near-zero access to near-full access to humanity’s expanding trove of information.

What happens when a human mind goes from near-zero access to near-infinite access? From knowing only the life immediately around it to the ability to know about the lives, achievements, potentials and possibilities across the whole human race?

First, shock and awe. Then dissatisfaction. Then action.

In this century, billions of people will, for the first time, have access to enough information to see and understand the opportunities that others enjoy, and to strive to maximize their own abilities and opportunities The increase in human capacity, productivity and fulfillment will be monumental.

And so goatherds — and certainly many of their children and grandchildren — will become technologists, doctors, lawyers, scientists, business people, etc. Corrupt and restrictive political systems will come under unstoppable pressure, as has already happened in the Soviet Union and Poland and in the Arab Spring. Jobs will continue to flow from the information-privileged to the formerly information-starved. Wealth will tend to equalize around the globe over many coming generations as more people come closer to maximizing their potential.

All of this, just because human minds are gaining new access to information.

Individually, of course, people will make good choices and bad ones. Access to information does not guarantee wise decisions. But in the main, across the whole of humanity, people will do what they are wired to do: They will mostly make choices that produce better outcomes for themselves, their families and, in aggregate, society. We’re seeing it in India and China. As information reaches all the dark corners of the planet, we’ll see it everywhere.

Exactly what will happen is impossible to predict. But we can be sure that the general result — with many hiccups along the way — will be more freedom, more equality, more economic advancement, more rapid development of technology and more global interconnectedness than ever before.

At the same time, those who benefited from the old, barricaded information systems of the past are in for hard times. Repressive governments, autocratic institutions and monopolistic businesses will find life more and more difficult.

So, too, will businesses built around the former difficulties of getting information. That includes the traditional media. In the 20th century, we used the best available technologies to give people information that was almost impossible to get any other way. Now people can use much easier, cheaper, more handily available technologies to get far more information than print or broadcast could ever provide — and information that’s far more centered on their own needs, wants and possibilities than our time-honored definitions of “news.”

What should we do now? For starters, we should realize that in the broadest view, this is the best of times for our customers, even if it is the worst of times for us. And in those best of times, with old information problems solved, our customers are now dealing with a completely different set of information needs and wants.

It’s our job to figure out what those are, and how to best to meet them.

Why the definition of news must change in the digital age

Nothing is more deeply ingrained in the newspaper industry than the definition of news. It’s the foundation of what we do, the “product” we use to attract and serve consumer audiences, and the platform on which we sell most of our advertising.

Now the definition desperately needs fundamental change, as I’ll document below. If we hope to be relevant and engaging to the people in our markets, we need to start over, beginning with a fresh answer to the question, “What is news?” Read the rest of this entry

Four huge takeaways from Borrell’s “The Future of Legacy Media”

When your industry is undergoing massive disruption, getting a glimpse of the future is priceless. The more you know about where things are going, the smarter you can be about what to do right now.

For that reason, the report released earlier this month by Borrell Associates — “The Future of Legacy Media” — should be required reading for everyone responsible for the health and sustainability of any legacy media business in the United States and Canada. Read the rest of this entry

The big picture: Mass media era was the blink of an eye

Image converted using ifftoany

In the midst of major change, we can only make the right moves if we properly understand what’s happening.

Right now, we in the mass media are wrestling with the most massive change we’ve ever seen. But, as in the parable of the blind men and the elephant, we’re only aware of the tiny part of this change that we touch every day. Read the rest of this entry

‘It’s the end of advertising as we’ve known it’

I was surprised to hear those words come out of my mouth recently, during a strategic discussion about where our company, Morris Communications, needs to be in three to five years.

I heard myself say, “We need to realize that we’re witnessing the end of advertising as we’ve known it. Not this year, not next year, but over a period of not very many years.” Read the rest of this entry

Desperately needed: More innovation on the audience side

Just how disrupted is the old newspaper business model — the model that’s centered on providing news to a geographic market?

A lot more disrupted than many people in the news media think.

The local media industry is scrambling to innovate around sales. This is seen, for example, in the race to create new digital sales teams and agencies selling digital marketing solutions to small and medium businesses. And the industry is innovating around costs by consolidating, outsourcing and otherwise whacking at the high costs of producing and distributing its products.

But I don’t see a lot of innovation happening around the content model that’s been the basis of the newspaper business for the last 100 — even 200 — years. Read the rest of this entry

Time to disrupt the old media sales model

The local media industry is in desperate need of new business models. By now, after seven or eight years of brutal shrinkage in ad revenues – in the U.S., anyway — it’s painfully obvious.

And heaven knows we’ve been looking. We’ve tried a lot of things — new digital advertising and marketing products, sales department reorgs, newsroom reorgs, different content models, new niche products and websites, pay walls and meters, just to name a few. Some are even working, at least to some extent.

But here’s a model we haven’t tried: Calling on every possible local advertising/marketing customer at least once a year. Read the rest of this entry

Price hikes on content — and then what?

As more and more newspaper companies charge more and more for their content, it’s important to ask — how are they using the money?

Read the rest of this entry

Everyday goal for local media companies: The greatest show on earth

What’s a local media company’s No. 1 job, whether it’s a newspaper company, a TV station or a radio station? Simple: Win the biggest audience, every day. You have to win audience to win advertising dollars.

Winning the biggest audience is a clear, simple, results-based goal. In the TV and radio industries, they’re all about it, based on standardized measures of audience share.

But in the newspaper industry, for far too long now, we’ve rarely held ourselves accountable for our audience results. Read the rest of this entry

Seeing a bigger picture: Two examples of how to spot opportunities amid disruption

When you spend years working in a disrupted business, you often wind up with a vision problem. You tend to become so focused on trying to evolve your existing business models that you don’t see the much bigger opportunities that surround them.

We’ve seen two examples of that recently in my work at Morris Publishing Group. In both cases, we’ve widened our view, and we’re now seeing and targeting some bigger possibilities. Read the rest of this entry

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