“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 (s GOOG), Apple (s AAPL), Amazon (s AMZN) and Netflix (s NFLX) 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 (s dis) 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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