Old Rules vs. New Rules For Media – A New Blog Series About The Future Of Media

Old Radio

With apologies to Bill Maher, I’ve tried to re-arrange the presentation I did at the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver and the Multimedia Meets Radio conference in Prague about ‘The Future of Radio’ into a series of coherent blog posts.

Instead of creating a single, giant post, I’ve tried to break up the salient points of the presentation into individual observations that I’m arranging as ‘Old Rules vs. New Rules’.

The goal of the series is to show how traditional media has worked and why they’ve made the strategic decisions they have, and then show how almost the EXACT opposite of those decisions are the NEW rules for success.

In the end, I hope to provide some clarity about why traditional media companies are struggling and where to look for solutions to their current problems.
So without further ado, here’s installment #1…

Old Rule #1: Shut Up And Watch / Listen

In the past, the only way to consume content was to tune into a live radio or TV station’s programming.  Old media pushed it out as a broadcast, and you tuned in.  If you missed it, too bad.  Old media controlled the how, when, and where of your experience. It was a one-way, linear push of content and information.

In other words, the key message from broadcasters to audiences boils down to ‘shut up and listen’ or ‘shut up and watch’.  Be a passive consumer of content that can be advertised to, counted, and controlled.  For a long time, this worked very well because there were no other options.  The very nature of the distribution of content made this the only option.

It goes without saying, then, that the business model for traditional TV and radio is based on getting as many people as possible to listen to radio or TV.  So all traditional marketing for media naturally is focused on driving audiences back to the radio and the TV.  Even today, many TV and radio websites are primarily marketing sites designed to drive users to leave their computers and instead go to the platform where they can be better monetized. To put it bluntly and obviously, ‘radio’ is defined by being ‘radio’ and ‘TV’ is defined by being ‘TV’. Both are defined by their distribution platforms.

New Rule #1: Define Yourself By Content, Not Your Distribution Platform
To phrase this another way, radio is not a kind of content. Neither is TV.  Both are methods of distributing content.  But the companies that have made audio and/or video programming have always defined themselves by how they distribute it.
Today, though, audiences have a myriad of distribution channels to choose from.  Over-the-air is just one of those options, which also include podcasting, online live streaming, on-demand streaming, mobile streaming, blogs, social networks, etc.

Defining yourself by only one distribution platform no longer makes any sense.

The new paradigm is to define yourself by the type of content you create.  Media companies need to think about what types of programming and content they are experts at creating.

For example, CBC Radio 3 isn’t a radio station, a website, or a podcast.  CBC Radio 3 is a team of experts in new Canadian music and audiences can choose to get that content on the distribution channel of their choice.  CNN is not JUST a TV network or JUST a website.  It is a team of content creators that are experts in breaking news.

This is significant – moving from being ‘a radio station’ to ‘a creator of specialized audio content’ requires not just a change of attitude and mindset, but also a rethinking of the production workflow for creating that content.

It also requires a MAJOR rethinking of how much control can be exerted over the consumption choices of the audiences, which is the subject of… Rule #2

What are some other media outlets that define themselves by content and not by platform?  Who’s doing a great job of thinking this way and producing content this way?  Let me know in the comments…

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meantux/242881566/)

Related Links:

Old Vs New Rule #2: Lock It Up In A Walled Garden Vs Set Your Content Free