A world in continuous transformation, particularly in the beginning of a new Era, produces various (social) anguishes, (economic) perplexities, and fatal (corporate) ambiguities that can have terrifying impacts on our individual plans and on the ways we have become used to when relating with our surroundings.
These are the topics of Nuno Ribeiro’s book. Both player in, and attentive observer of the changes we have been witnessing, he systematizes the tremendous complexity of the corporate and business redesign processes using language we can all understand, without ever giving in to the comfortable idea of “final”. He even says, in the first chapter, that he “intends to reflect on the challenges and realities that we live with today,” but notes that “tomorrow everything can change…”.
In the “eye of the hurricane”, the (traditional) media industry has been developing new initiatives, not always in the best way, but it has made decisions with some strategic impact that have allowed it to reconvert production models (if timidly) and adapt to the requirements of the current reality.
The (digital) environment in which we live and the changes it has brought to our media consumption patterns require that the traditional media (radio, television, press) make additional efforts to adapt to a multiplatform universe, in order to capture the various audiences that have progressively been shifting their attention and preferences to new venues, by utilizing both traditional and new media in an integrated way.
This new reality places the content offering (ideally diversified and differentiating) in the center of the business, places strategic value on filtering multiple segments of increasingly demanding consumers, and makes a multiplicity of distribution channels absolutely necessary. As such, the redesign of production pathways, to simplify the flow of content among platforms, the restructuring of organizations, and the recruiting of
new competencies are essential to produce an adequate response for the media company to these different audiences with their combination of new needs and traditional consumption habits.
The old relationship between broadcaster and audience has been breached. Even though many of us still listen to music on the radio, watch television on the TV set, and are drawn to the intimacy of a paper newspaper, the audience’s role is changing and moving toward the center of the media universe. It is the audience who chooses the broadcasters of news and entertainment and the most convenient times for those broadcasts. The audience produces its own content — user-generated content — and makes it freely available. Producing one’s own content or participating in programming is not new (radio has for a long time relied on its listeners for content); the novelty is the capacity of the consumer audience to publish its content without relying on corporate “broadcasting centers”.
We live in a world where newspapers use audio and video; mobile phones play music and are information centers; tablets are a seemlingly endless source of information and entertainment, and where images of radio open the TV news. Content from various origins lives side by side in the same (digital) environment, competing for the attention of consumers, and creating a change in consumption habits. These days, less and less people will sit on the river bank watching the “river” go by, instead preferring the “lake”, to quote Christian Nissen’s inspired analogy, when he uses this language to refer to linear programming and downloadable content respectively. If this seeming trend is confirmed, more and more people will consume in a non-traditional way. Already, according to Havas, 33% of Internet consumers simultaneously listen to the radio while consuming other media. In fact, radio is the strongest traditional media in all multitasking studies.
Without a doubt, today (and increasingly, moving forward), the traditional media are not consumed via the usual pathways whether TV set or on paper. They have been expanding to other territories, and have gained a new life.
Radio and television programmers and newspapers will tend to expand their content delivery to other platforms and networks, to make their content available at any time, anywhere
(rapidly devaluing the notion of “prime time.” This will sometimes lead consumers to “stumble” on the content they and their peers produce themselves. More frequently, though, the capacity to integrate (with other media), to distribute (through multiple networks), and to diversify (content) will make the major producers (the traditional broadcasters of news and entertainment) relevant.
This evolution will be hastened as adequate measurement solutions are found. This will be the core issue of the media market, in the times ahead. Both producers and advertisers will want to know how much content is worth across the diverse platforms and networks. None of the current measurement instruments solve the key issue which the market requires knowledge on: how to measure content, across both linear distribution and interactive applications. One day, when the “lake” business (of content) imposes itself on the current “river” (of linear programming) or, when the market determines that both will coexist, complementing each other, we will find a solution.
In the last 20 years of media everything, or almost everything, has changed. Production processes have changed. Distribution has changed. The way we consume has changed.
Technological innovation will continue to surprise us and will strongly contribute to the acceleration of media convergence and content integration. In general, the technology issue is solved. We just need to see whether companies will have the capacity (and intelligence), in this hectic time of transition, to retrain people and align them with the new requirements. As always, it will be the people who will make the difference.
As Nuno Ribeiro says in his final notes, our key challenge may be the “inertia and the difficulty of adapting and reorganizing companies”, equipping them with the skills required to address “the new corporate realities and challenges produced by abrupt changes”.
Inertia, the inability to change our lives, can have dark consequences for us as individuals, and can be fatal to companies and governments. Thinking of this, I can’t resist telling a story I once heard from Mia Couto.
Once a man saw two kids sitting on a wall.
He asked one of them: What are you doing there?
The kid answered: Nothing. Then he asked the other one: And you, what are you doing there? And the second kid replied: I am helping him.
We can do the same. If we want, we can see the signs – the increasing utilization of the Net; next generation mobile phones; cars equipped with IP radios, where you listen only to what you want; the growth of cable; the explosion of tablets; and the wealth of on-demand content — as things reserved for eccentrics, and do nothing.
We can remain sitting on the wall, like the kids in Mia Couto’s story, but, if we do, we will be sitting on two certainties: that this time of ours will sweep us away as easily as a tsunami, and will take along, in the flow, the wall supporting us. The walls of History also fall, as we know.