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
Let’s look beyond the waves of media disruption we’re experiencing these days. Let’s try to imagine the end state, when media disruption gets done.
Wait … will it ever get done? Yes, I think so — at the time when virtually everyone on the planet, during every waking moment, has instant access at will to virtually the entire body of human knowledge. (Maybe in sleeping moments, too.)
When we stand back and look at the big picture, what we call media disruption is really just a series of technology steps in that direction. Each step opens more hours of a person’s consciousness for access to more of the world’s information.
At some point, no longer very far in the future, that connected time will include all the hours of the day. The information will be there, and all you’ll have to do is reach for it. And the reaching will get easier and more effective as search algorithms improve.
Just look at the leaps we’ve made in the last 100 years. We’ve gone from print to telephone to broadcast to the Internet, and on the Internet we’ve gone from desktop to laptop to mobile tablet and handset. Each of these steps has opened more hours of the day for us, for access to greater stores of information, from more locations and situations.
The next step is wearables, especially if they can supplant handsets. And beyond that? Will humans choose to get full-access chips embedded in their bodies or brains, so all it takes is a thought to access any desired information? It may seem like science fiction now, but the time may come when it’s viewed as only a more convenient way to have “hands-free” access.
The big deal in all of this is not the technology nor the devices. It’s the changes in human behavior they bring.
Right now, mobile is changing the behavior of millions of people by opening access during all the previously non-connected hours. In more and more moments, people are realizing they can get answers, find locations, communicate with others, share thoughts and sights and sounds, and so on. They are reaching into the world’s information network more often, for more things, from more places.
Let’s extrapolate all of this to its inevitable destination. At that point, in every moment, you and I — or maybe it will be the next generation, or the next — will be fully adjusted to having complete access to information every moment. There won’t be the hitch of, “Oh, wait, I can look it up.” We’ll do it by instinct and habit.
What a huge change. Throughout all of human history, consciousness has been distantly detached from information. We’ve been separated from what we want to know by time, distance, skills, money, availability and the pure difficulty of locating the precise information we want or need.
In the Age of Knowing Everything, when all you have to do to know something is reach and and get it, what will change?
I’ve written about this coming era in a previous posting:
“From the global perspective, this [will be] the best thing that has ever happened to humanity. The human mind is, fundamentally, an engine for processing information and producing choices, decisions and actions. For that mental engine, most of the last 200,000 years have truly been the dark ages. It has been a long, confining period in which only a tiny number of humans could get enough information and knowledge to maximize their life potential.
“Now, as information and access expand to infinity around the globe, humans will be able to learn, 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.”
In the Age of Knowing Everything, what will the benefits be, and how will they be distributed? On a recent Saturday morning, my wife, Cynthia, and I spent a good two hours roaming around among the vast ramifications of that question. Here are a few thoughts that occurred to us:
- As the external information barriers disappear, the remaining barriers will be internal. Individuals who are able and motivated to learn and grow will outpace those who aren’t. Internal barriers of many kinds — psychological dysfunctions, low motivation, learning disabilities, etc., — will hold back many.
- So, while information access will be more equal, the benefits will be unevenly distributed. Much greater benefits will accrue to those who are curious, who like to learn and spend time at it, who seek and find the best information and apply it well.
- Information will be infinite, but there will still be only so much time. Individuals will still make their own decisions on how to allocate their time among amusement, social interaction, learning/growth, problem-solving, etc.
- As the global informational playing field becomes more level, individuals in historically underdeveloped nations will race to learn and grow. Workers in developed nations will find the global competition for jobs tougher and tougher.
- Individuals facing choices and decisions will be able to make better ones, based on the information they can access in the very moment of choosing. This is already happening with mobile phones; it will soon be endemic to the entire population. The result could be a general increase in human welfare.
- People who are fascinated by any specific topic and have the energy to pursue it will be able to become category experts quickly by accessing what is already known.
- Experts in a given field will be able to increase their productive thinking time and will be able to check their ideas quickly against existing bodies of knowledge. This will produce faster advances in countless subject areas.
- Schools, colleges and universities will need to become very different places. Designed around a world in which information was hard to get, they will need to retool to fit a world in which students can readily access vastly greater knowledge than a syllabus can provide. Organized education will be much more about teaching students how to learn, about organizing and navigating vast amounts of information and interpreting it, and much less about serving up specific pieces of content.
- One of the hardest choices people must make in modern times is what line of work to pursue. Historically, young people made choices early and hoped they could last for a lifetime. When everyone can explore any subject area, it seems likely that career changes, and certainly job changes, will become more frequent. This is already happening.
- Behaviors are likely to keep diverging more and more widely. Many people will use the information pool to enable productive and constructive actions that benefit themselves, their families and — by extension — society. Others will use the information pool to indulge selfish interests or reinforce harmful or destructive tendencies, resulting in actions and decisions that don’t benefit society, or actually do harm.
These are just a few of the possibilities. You’ll surely think of others; please add them in the comments below.
One thing is sure: In The Age of Knowing Everything, when humans are no longer detached from the information they need to make choices and decisions, change will move through the human experience at a far faster pace than ever before.
If you’re old enough to remember Saturday Night Live in its glory days, maybe you remember the hilarious sketches set in the Scotch Tape store at the old mall.
The bit was centered on, and got its laughs from, a ridiculously narrow business model centered on a single product, sold in a retail location that was no longer the cool place to be. (I’d love to link to a clip here, but I couldn’t find one. NBC must be closely guarding its copyright.)
Those sketches came to mind this week as I was trying to think of a metaphor for the newspaper business and its relentless concentration on news. News continues to be our industry’s central purpose and the heart of its business model for attracting audiences.
I laughed out loud when it occurred to me that we might be well on the way to becoming the Scotch Tape store, or “Scotch Boutique,” as they called it. But the idea is as painful as it is funny. Read the rest of this entry
“I want my ad to go right here,” Jerry Coolman said. He pointed at the middle two columns at the top of the newspaper page — right in the middle of an article. He wanted his ad for lawn tractors to hit readers smack between the eyes.
“Jerry, we can’t do that,” I said. “That’s the reader’s space — we can’t plunk an ad down in the middle of it.”
That was 1983. Now, twenty years later, it turns out we can plunk an ad down in the reader’s space. It’s being done more and more, and it’s being called by a new name: “native advertising.” Read the rest of this entry
About five years ago, on a weekend, Derek May — then publisher of the St. Augustine (FL) Record — was doing what many publishers were doing at the time: Trying to figure out the steep decline in advertising revenue he was seeing in his unit’s financials.
What was the main cause of the decline? The recession was the driver, of course, but was it mainly hitting certain categories of advertising? Certain types of advertisers? Big advertisers? Small advertisers? Read the rest of this entry
To someone who only has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In the newspaper industry, the hammer we have is news. And right now, the new nail is mobile.
With mobile usage exploding, our industry is determined to pound that nail with news as hard and fast as we can. It looks like a must-do, a matter of survival, and — we hope — a new opportunity to reach people, sell advertising and make money. But mobile is not the nail we think it is. Read the rest of this entry
Say the word “recruitment” and most newspaper executives groan. Over the last seven or eight years, our revenue in this space has shrunk to a fraction of its former size, and it’s still slipping.
At Morris Publishing Group, we’ve been looking hard at this vertical for several months. We’ve been trying to figure out two things: How can we do better at what’s left of our existing business, and how can we create new wins in this space?
We’re beginning to see path ahead, so it’s a good time to share some of what we’ve learned. Read the rest of this entry
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
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
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