A pending media revolution; Bob Dylan; keys to success and more


I’ve received several hundred e-mails in the past week from senior executives to unemployed DJ’s regarding the comments printed in Mark Ramsey’s site and mentioned in Bob Lefsetz’ blog. The awareness of the “content crisis” is high.  The tone of the notes was similar to what I imagine the people of repressed Middle Eastern Countries feel.  Desperate is a relative thing, but it is encouraging to see that there is an awareness of the “zone of average” that engulfs American media.  More than a few people commented that the style of content innovation was a thing of the past.  As one VP level person said from a big media company “The stuff you talk about cannot be achieved today because of the corporate environment.” 

What?!  I understand what he is saying but how then can the tech- and Internet- driven companies invent the future while “old” media companies can’t? They CAN, but it IS going to take a revolution. New thinking, new leadership (or leaders that get with the program), and a liberation of the smart people with good new ideas in content and creative just like those with new ideas in technology have mandated freedom to invent.  Imagine the balance of financial, technological and CREATIVE brilliance at a media company.  It would be hard to beat that. Simple, but it does not yet exist. Now–a history lesson:  Read these lyrics.  Seriously, written around 50 years ago, this message has never been more relevant:


How can anyone look around and not see the cesspool of mediocrity and the acceptance of it as the norm — at a time of explosive global change?  We have company cultures focused solely of efficiency rather than efficiency AND noticeable product excellence.

We have company cultures that anesthetize themselves with unattainable mission statements and hopes that a recovering economy and an App will save their futures.  As long as there are people out there who WANT to move forward and tap into the garden of “mass appeal intelligence” and forward looking content, there is hope.  And there IS hope, but it may just take a revolution to get there…

This is over simplified, but when Apple introduced I-phone, you know they put Blackberry and other devices under the microscope to figure out HOW CAN THIS BE BETTER? And then AFDI.

When I was at XM, we schmoozed all of the car companies:  Many of the traditional car executives were very arrogant feeling their cars are the best in the world, that they turned the corner and were making great cars. On the other hand, some of the foreign-based companies opened up on how they shipped every luxury car in the world to their headquarters, tore them apart to figure out how to make them better…and they did.

When I picked up my Cirrus aircraft, they gave me the factory tour and talked about how they picked apart Cessna, Piper and Mooney to make a better private aircraft.  Within a few years, they were #1 as the others scoffed at the idea of a glass cockpit OR simply were too focused grouped to AFDI.

Then you get to American media–Tear content apart to make better!!??? NEVER–A sin.  Everything is fine,  its all the economy’s fault….”we are #1″…People love our product…blah blah….’Read our mission statement–its all about cutting edge innovation’ type complete BS.  Downsizing and reorganizing is a component of tearing apart—but the actual content?  Nope.  Sacred I guess.  Tearing apart isn’t a bad word.  As a pilot, I’m glad my plane goes through a tear apart once a year at the FAA mandated Annual Inspection.  Maybe the FCC should order Annual content inspections to discover and correct issues.  The Annual aircraft inspection finds problems, they are corrected, and the plane is better because of that.

I believe we have the opportunity to NOT join the parade to media hell,  but to TEAR APART with one goal: Creating NOTICEABLY better products.

That’s the key: Accepting that something is possibly flawed…GOING THROUGH THE EXERCISE OF EXAMINING IT…then having the leadership and culture to make it the BEST for 2011 and beyond. So simple….but in media and other American business, so NOT on the radar.

PARODY IS THE NEW SITCOM:  This is an emerging super category in entertainment…like the Onion, or any of the cable shows.  I’m thinking things are SO screwed up that mocking the insanity is a popular release.  If there was a Comedy stock market, buy Parody.


MUSIC RADIO’S SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS:  Remember when radio owned music information?  It remains a natural place to be the source of what’s popular.   Americans are stat crazed….but another example of the terrestrial radio handing it to the Internet…this is smart for Google I think:


THE INTELLECTUAL SCALE: On another topic, think “intellectual scale.” Developed this term during newspaper redesign. If 1 is a grocery line tabloid and 10 is the Financial Times.  Papers often perceived themselves as an 8 or 9 where perch infestations are more important than the “hit” topics. In reality, maybe they needed to be a 6. In radio or TV, the same scale applies.

NPR and PBS maybe is a 9 and some reality shows are a 2. There’s nothing wrong with a 2 or a 9 as long as it’s done well. The point here is that this is another way of creating content and designing for the target.  Similar to psychographic profiling, but more aimed at how the product is focused and produced than as a sales vehicle.

–Lee Abrams, former Tribune Chief Innovation Officer