Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

Archive for April, 2010

Clay Shirky’s Message to Old Media: Change or Die

Author and academic Clay Shirky has a re-tooled message to old media: Change or die. In his new post called “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” Shirky asserts “When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse, their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to.”

One example he uses is the move to return to having users pay for journalistic content. Many newspapers, magazines and entertainment outlets say that content shouldn’t be free and that they will start charging for it. But the fact is, users now have choices. There are free outlets.

Another example he uses is video. It used to be complicated to record, edit and air video — say nothing of expensive. But with the advent of better technology and free methods of distribution — think YouTube — anyone with a camera phone can upload and show their favorite video. And while we still enjoy our movies, riveting television shows and other highly produced extravaganzas, it’s now often the cheapest that entertain us the best.

If truth were told, says Shirky, these media titans would seem to be saying something like this: “Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.”

Asks Shirky — What’s the most watched video in the last five years? “Baby Charlie biting his brother’s finger. (Twice!) That minute has been watched by more people than the viewership of American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, and the Superbowl combined. (174 million views and counting.)”

Old media has to change because the economic “ecosystem” has stopped rewarding complexity. Simple is better. And those who figure that out will be rewarded in not only the present, but future too.