Mass Media Is Dead: Optimize Your Influence in TechMedia

700 464 David DeWolf

This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be sharing based on a talk I gave earlier this year to a group of communications majors at Franciscan University in Steubenville.

In October 2013, Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post for $250 million. The Washington Post was one of the crown jewels of media, valued at a fraction of its value just ten years before, and acquired by a technology entrepreneur.

History will look back and say that that was the final chapter of mass media. Mass media is dead.

Consider what’s happened in the last ten years. Amazon first disrupted the entire book industry. This small, scrappy technology company disrupted the distribution channels first. Borders used to be a $1.5 billion business. It’s now bankrupt and out of business.

Did you know that e-books are one of the fastest growing mediums? Printers are almost deceased.

In 2012, for the first time, more books were self-published than published through the traditional book publishers, and these are changes that we’re just talking about in one small sub-sector of media.

Consider the others. How about the music industry? Did you know that album sales were at an all-time high when the iPod was first released by Apple? Just ten years prior, Columbia House Records – of mail-order CDs – was a powerhouse, distributing music. Since that time, album sales have declined while individual song sales have risen, and Columbia House is dead, bankrupt, out of business.

And let’s look at TV. Did you know that recent studies show that 80 percent of viewers have a second screen in their hand when they’re watching television? That blows my mind. That’s not a captured audience anymore.

The writing is on the wall.

I could go on and on and on with examples, but the bottom line is this: media as we know it is dead. Mass media is dead.

Let me reassure you, though. There has never been a better time to be in media. It’s just a new, different type of media. Mass media is dead, but TechMedia has just been born.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt, who used to be the chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the seventh-largest book publisher in the world, says that “Competition has never been greater. People are more distracted than ever. But I choose to see it as an opportunity.”

Why an opportunity? What is this opportunity that we see? What is it about TechMedia?

In times of troubled disruption, it is the core talent, it is the creativity and judgment that only you and I as humans can do, that continues. It’s not the medium, but rather the core, innate human aspect that survives.

This may be the most exciting part for me: in times of disruption, new leaders come to the surface. The disruption itself provides an opportunity for people who think out of the box, who aren’t familiar with the ecosystem and what’s supposed to be. It’s precisely what’s supposed to be that’s being thrown away.

There are two fundamental pieces of knowledge you need to have in this new TechMedia world in order to optimize your influence and to be leaders in TechMedia.

First, you need to understand this disruption that’s taking place. You can’t take advantage of an opportunity if you don’t know that it exists. It’s hard to take advantage of that opportunity if you don’t understand the context and what’s going on.

You need to know and understand why I say that mass media is dead and what it means to say that there’s a new TechMedia industry and that this disruption is real.

Second, you have to leverage this opportunity through basic leadership, in order to optimize your influence and combine faith and media.

But you know what? The advent of a new industry provides a very real opportunity for us to leap to the forefront.

First, let’s talk about the disruption. What is it?

Let me propose to you that disruption–not continual innovation but disruption–has a single fundamental thing. When an industry or a sector within our business ecosystem is disrupted, the economic pie that has been relied upon for business models year after year, decade after decade, is totally thrown into chaos.

This is different than innovation. Innovation always continues to some extent within industries. We’ve seen record albums, cassette tapes, CDs: that’s the progression of a medium. True innovation that causes disruption upsets the entire ecosystem. What we used to have was a well-defined media ecosystem where content creators, distributors, producers, and publishers could rely upon certain economic realities to exist. Every single one of those understood how they played with the others. Every single one of them knew how the game was played.

What has happened in the last ten years, maybe shorter? Technology has come in and captured a significant portion of that ecosystem. The value chain of how we get information into the hands of the consumer has been totally disrupted.

Not only has it replaced and eliminated pieces of that value chain, those that have not been eliminated have been significantly impacted. The economic realities that they used to rely upon simply do not exist.

Here’s what’s fascinating: it’s not just that technology has impacted media. Media has likewise impacted technology.

It’s not just that the Googles and the Yahoos and the Facebooks–the innovative media companies of the world who are leading this from the inside out–it’s not just that those companies have come in with technology to replace media, it’s that media is changing the way technological innovation happens today.

Here’s a very simple example. Think about two separate innovations that have happened in the last 30 years. First, back in the heyday of mass media: the internet. The internet was incubated within a government agency, DARPA, responsible for solving unsolvable problems and the research and development of our country. It incubated this idea of digital communications, pushed it out to large, high-end institutions and universities. Eventually it made its way to the business world, where it evolved further. Finally, it was pushed back around to the consumer.

Now think about the innovation that have happened in the last ten years. The iPad comes to the top of my mind. Media has changed how we innovate with technology. It was a consumer demand, a consumer need, that Apple decided existed that drove the adoption of tablets. It was the individual user at home who adopted that technology first and demanded to the business world that it needed to be used in all aspects of life, because work was simply too hard compared to my life at home. And so businesses were forced to adopt a bring-your-own-device policy, and eventually it went to the larger institutions and the government world.

It fascinates me that throughout all of history, most innovation was driven by those who could afford it. But technology has gotten so cheap and is so in tune with culture today, is so in tune with the consumers of media and the information flow has gone two ways that now that culture, that medium, is influencing how we innovate and what we innovate. It’s not an individual in a large agency that’s pushing innovation down, it’s a grassroots effort that’s coming up.

This is a fundamental aspect of how media has changed and of how technology has changed and it’s married together. The media magnates of yesterday are the technology entrepreneurs of today. It makes a difference in the real world.

How has the death of mass media and the rise of TechMedia impacted you?