Now television broadcasters are blocking Google TV from getting access to the content broadcasters put online to make sure they don’t lose advertising dollars. But the cat is out of the bag. All information is nothing more than bits on one network — the Internet.


“The most ominous of fallacies–the belief that things can be kept static by inaction.” –Freyda Stark

So, now television broadcasters are blocking Google TV from getting access to the content they’re putting online. They want to make sure they don’t lose their advertising dollars. News flash: The cat is out of the bag. All information (including your precious television shows) are nothing more than bits on one network to rule them all — the Internet.

The knee-jerk response from the television industry and media to services like Google, Apple, Amazon and Netflix is a typical reaction from institutions of the past century, and a result of limited and short-term thinking. Unfortunately, the broadcast industry aren’t the only ones.

Every so often, you hear executives bemoaning the demise of the newspaper business, the declining fortunes of radio networks and the crumbling of the television industry. There’s talk of the music industry being at the point of no return, and one could probably add Madison Avenue to this gloomy outlook.

When I look at these industries and the failure — or impending failure — of these institutions, I see a fundamental mistake on their part to understand their own core businesses. They fail to see the world in a larger context, and instead, choose to focus on maintaining the status quo. If they took their cue from Apple (everywhere computing) or Amazon (any content anywhere), they could have found answers to their problems.

The trouble with print media (newspapers in particular) is it has never forced itself to look into the future, even though its employees were amongst the chroniclers of the future. Newspaper executives never really focused on the reality that as the Internet became pervasive, the idea of a daily newspaper was going to become the subset of an information business –- part of an amorphous goo we call MEDIA. From Facebook to Google to Twitter to blogs, we are all part of a bigger “information” business.

Because these new media are attuned to the needs of a new kind of information consumer, it’s hardly a surprise that media’s single largest source of revenues — advertising dollars — are getting sliced and diced in pursuit of this elusive, always transforming, info-savvy media consumer. Unfortunately, the media is used to selling page views, impressions and massive audiences: metrics as archaic as drinking on the job and smoking in a doctor’s office.

The same reasoning also applies to the music industry. If you stop looking at the music businesses from a myopic standpoint — a malaise so common in a world full of mediocrity — you see that CDs and albums are a subset of a bigger business. Let’s call that bigger business the music experience. Spotify, Pandora Music, LiveNation, Last.fm, MOG — they are all part of the bigger music experience  that combines everything from buying music on iTunes, to tickets at LiveNation to sharing playlists with friends to getting recommendations from others whose taste we trust.

The television industry, which is currently having its own Waterloo moment, is in trouble, because it never looked into the future and thought of itself as being part of the bigger business that is video. By thinking holistically about video (and not just TV), the content creators can (and some are) profiting from that shift to a single mode of distribution: ESPN and MLB, for example. But most aren’t. The clumsy blockade of Google TV by broadcasters shows that you can’t make an elephant dance!

For the media industry  (which is video, music and print), there has been one more, and perhaps the farthest-reaching, failure: the inability of the folks to grok that today’s audience is not tomorrow’s audience. It goes without saying there’s a whole generation of folk that has either grown up, or are growing up, on the Internet. Their consumption and online behavior is going to be predicated on a distribution medium whose basic premise is abundance. They will find, curate and consume on their own terms, on their own choice of screens and on their own time.

Generation D, where D is for disruption, is adapted to route around the old models: old models controlled by old men. My friend Pip Coburn believes that “routing around these old models” offers new opportunities. There’s a reason why IAC is, and will always remain, a reflection in a dirty pond –- a collection of properties that is unable to understand the new Internet people. If they don’t, someone else will, and they will become the next Ev Williams or Mark Zuckerberg.

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  1. Will the old men wake up?

    1. One doesn’t wake from extinction.

      Dinosaurs looked up, saw the meteor entering the atmosphere…

      The end.

      1. And, it’s clearly not a phenomenon that’s unique to the big-media industry. When we recall how legacy thinking didn’t save PanAm Airways nor TWA, you have to wonder — which of the big three TV networks will implode first?

    2. Biology needs death…

  2. But the same can be said about SW. SW as a data transformation service is not written to be organized around people when and what they need. It’s still organized around data on a computer even if you run it on a phone.

    Right now we have (are happy with) data access to “when and where we need” it, only with the amount of data ever rising we need to add “what” to the equation. To get there we have to combine social (data organized around people) and mobile (data organized around location) and consequential (data sequence neutrality).

  3. Great post. You win for most articulate, well written version…

    And Karl wins for funniest:

    “That’s it. I’m blocking GoogleTV from accessing Broadband Reports. Nosy bastards driving up our ad revenue. I mean who do they think they are, using a browser to access content?”

    1. Karl is indeed funny. What can one say — I love reading his tweets.

  4. Most of silicon valley is about to be disrupted as well, including apple, microsoft and intel.

    1. What do you mean by that? Explain, because it is interesting thought.

      1. Om,

        I’m not sure exactly what Charbax meant but at the TechCrunch 2010 Disrupt conference John Doerr talks about the idea of the next evolution of the internet will be about people, places and relationships (what many tech companies really don’t focus on) and I found that very interesting and agree with him. He did a really interesting talk with Charlie Rose at the conference. In case you’re interested here’s a blog post I did on it. The video is worth taking the time to check it out (in case you hadn’t seen it). http://www.cnvrgnc.com/journal-old/2010/6/4/which-one-are-you.html

      2. Om,
        I’m not sure what Charbax meant but John Doerr at this year’s Tech Crunch Disrupt conference hints at this idea (I feel) by saying that the next evolution of the web will be about people, places and relationships (not what many tech companies really focus on). I thought the idea was very intriguing and I agree with him on it. Here’s a post I did on it in June. The video is worth watching. http://www.cnvrgnc.com/journal-old/2010/6/4/which-one-are-you.html

  5. One of the worst articles to date. Cheap cliches, no real solutions.

    What would you do if you were a newspaper CEO or TV CEO?

    Twitter and FB were accidental success, not the result of some master media strategist who wanted to kill off “old media”. It’s not like Zuckenberg said, I see an opportunity to kill newspapers and Google, here is my plan to get to 500 million users, etc. He just started a social network for fellow college students that kept on expanding.

    So, if you were running the New York Times, what would you do?

    1. “If you were running the New York Times, what would you do?”

      Acknowledge the end of print is here, invoke my golden parachute’s ten million dollars, and retire.

    2. I agree with both of you. On the one hand, fb and twitter were accidents of scale and were never drawn on a cocktail napkin as a way to take over… well everything. On the other hand, I don’t think they were monkeys seeking Shakespeare on their keyboards either. I think they represent(ed) the desire to circumvent the gatekeepers.

      There is no perfect machine and big corporations and/or their industries – although inevitable, necessary, and useful – lack agility and vision as a result of their mass. Their size gives them the privilege to hold the keys to the city as we know – the bouncers for their respective clubs – but what they aren’t realizing is that we don’t care about being on their fancy list; there is no list.

      If I’m having coffee with New York Times, I would tell him that his job is no longer deciding what is or isn’t popular or necessary anymore. His job is capitalizing on what is. And possibly most important, quit picking. Old guard media had to pick one form and be the best to succeed. Now they need to be in them all. Don’t stop sending out your paper newspapers New York Times but maybe trim the traditional stuff and direct attention towards interaction with the readers. Can’t handle all the feedback and engagement from readers? then it means there is an unmet need there.

      In conclusion of my 2am ramblings, it’s like this. Mr. Goliath-Company-Exec, you don’t need to understand why Jackass the movie will be one of the highest grossing movies of the year. Like it or not it’s happening. What you need to decide is how are you going to get Johnny Knoxville to wear your company’s t-shirt in the movie. The Davids of this world are in the game and the Goliaths need to start ducking and bobbing or get knocked out.

    3. James Craig Burley Huh? Tuesday, October 26, 2010

      But it’s their “accidental” history that makes the story all the more compelling; it wasn’t one behemoth targeting and taking over another in classic corporate-boardroom fashion. The fact that something as “accidental”, and ultimately simple, as Twitter or FB has pushed aside the attractiveness of advertising in traditional mass media exposes the (inherent?) weaknesses in that old advertising model. When you can’t easily predict who your challengers/enemies will be (as you could when only behemoths can challenge you); when you have to worry about a couple of college kids throwing together a website anywhere in the world; when you have to shut down access to popular sites and services via your own “pipes” in order to preserve your “revenue stream”: then your revenue model is no longer working as it once did.

    4. Katherine Warman Kern Huh? Wednesday, November 3, 2010

      1) Quit tinkering and aim for profound innovation.
      2) Send the legal department on vacation and tell them to come back open to re-think the legal implications of your new revenue streams.
      3) Transform database lists and management technology into a visual, multi-dimensional representation of all the segments of the New York City “cultural community” and provide free access to anyone interested in probing to find out where they might fit in.
      4) Invite those interested in being a part of the community to pay to be on the “map” and manage who has access to which personal assets shared on their profile page.
      5) Provide tools for open collaboration between editors and programming management and members to identify what matters and probe diverse implications.
      6) Position all talent, editorial and programming on the free “map” relative to which segment it is relevant to.
      7) Add paid live event programming, accessible from anywhere, where journalists representing different points of view, probe all the implications, and in which the paid audience may participate with each other and with the presenters.
      8) Then have legal department re-define terms of use and eliminate the privacy policy.

  6. A different view. Interesting.

  7. This is a great post, Om.

    There is an added complication for the television business that didn’t apply to the music or newspaper businesses – the complex dependency on cable and satellite carriage fees (including, now, for networks like ABC and Fox).

    The people slamming the brakes the hardest are the senior licensing and sales teams at the networks — the people who negotiate carriage rates with the cable operators. They know one thing — that digital distribution deals make their lives harder. That every show that goes on Hulu or Netflix gives the cable operators a reason to say no to any carriage fee increases; and to start pushing the price down. And that means their bonuses go lower.

    It’s a funny situation where people at these networks see the future, and want to embrace it. But can’t because of their total dependency on their carriage fee deals with the satellite and cable folks.

  8. original insider Friday, October 22, 2010

    i have been reading this exact same tedious rant for 20 years. please. stop. please? get over yourself. you are not that smart and degfinitely not that visionary. things change. duh. established constiuents try desperately to protect and preserve their power. duh. but still, things change.


    sorry, wish i had more time to keep commenting, but i have to go read this exact treatment of this exact topic on 100,000 or so other blogs.

  9. Wow.
    People are gonna say you just got a bunch more money for your blog network so you’re swinging the big dick. Maybe. Doesn’t make you any less right. And right you are.

    On my site I write about how the mobile web is destroying industries like media. It’s labelled: information wants to be monetized.

    This Generation D you talk of is willing to *pay* for content. But, the content they want. Not 100 channels they don’t. And, they want it anytime, anywhere.

    But your post is probably one of the best things I’ve read of yours in a long while.

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