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May 10, 2007

Getting There Is Half The Fun

I suppose it’s fitting that the final deep dive on Media and Content was in some ways the most confounding one to date. The GIO team has gotten pretty used to walking away from each deep dive without a sense of closure. The GIO is actually designed that way. We don’t endeavor to solve all the problems facing the media industry, we just want to get the conversation started among a group of people that can.

But this dive felt particularly open-ended, unfinished, unsettling. And it wasn’t until the very end that it all made sense to me. When Ginni Rometty, senior vice president of IBM’s Global Business Services, stood to make her final remarks to the group, she somehow found the common thread between all the players in the room. “What I heard today is that we are all involved in changing paradigms,” said Rometty. “We’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the destination of all this change will be, but maybe we should think more about the journey than the destination. It is possible that the next step is to think about how you do things, and how you can do things differently, rather than what you end up doing.”

It was dead on. Every person in that room had “I am experiencing rapid and merciless change” written all over their faces. Among the participants in the dive were representatives from Sony Pictures, Disney, Ogilvy North America, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Reuters, Stanford and Syracuse Universities, Wal-Mart, Time Inc., Linden Lab, a Silicon Valley V.C. called Mayfield Fund, a U.K. startup called Grapeshot, and an Indian gaming company called Games2win. And they all shared the same feeling that everything was up in the air, and no one was sure where it was all going to land.

This sentiment was evidenced by a lengthy discussion amongst the group on the instability of the business ecosystem around media and content. One deep diver noted that if you want to invest in a business, you typically want to put some money in, grow the business over some period of time, then get that money back (plus profit.) But how can you invest in an industry in which things change too rapidly for anything to take root?

He went on to characterize the current state of the industry as increasingly brief periods of stability. But others in the group suggested his characterization didn’t go far enough. “This isn’t short periods of stability, it’s one long period of instability,” said Gene Yoon, vice president of business affairs at Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life. “All of those strategists that planned your business five or ten years out, that skill is no longer needed. You have to be willing to constantly transform your business. You have to be fearless. You have to be willing to start a business that you know won’t exist in a couple years.”

There was some groaning about this new reality for a bit, before John Snyder, a serial entrepreneur and founder of a startup called Grapeshot said, "Who wants stability? This is the best time for entrepreneurs!"

This notion of the constantly changing business model was summed up beautifully by Alok Kejriwal, founder and CEO of Games2win. “In five years, I don’t think I’ll be the Chief Executive Officer of my company anymore,” said Kejriwal. “I’ll think I’ll be something more like Chief Opportunity Officer. Because there are so many paths to go down, the hardest job will be deciding which one to choose.”

There was also a spirited discussion on the future of advertising. Allen Morgan, managing director at the Mayfield Fund, speculated that targeted advertising through the Internet and other means could have a dramatic impact of overall advertising spending. He quoted retail mogul John Wanamaker’s famous line "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." Then went on to say, “if we figure out which half, aggregate brand spending is going to get cut in half.”

Many in the room were looking to Carla Hendra, co-chief executive officer at Ogilvy North America, for answers. “Building a brand is about telling a story, and storytelling is not going to go away,” said Hendra. “But the way we tell the story and how we deliver that story will change. We will see some dramatic shifts in marketing spend, but you are not going to see half the spend cut out.”

The other point that came up regarding targeted advertising was this: in a world in which marketing gets increasingly targeted and accurate, based on the behaviors and preferences of individual consumers, is there any room left for serendipity? In other words, sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know. This goes for content producers and advertisers. But one of the deep dive participants who had done research on the topic suggested that the right mix is 50 percent targeted content, 50 percent serendipitous content. Give chance a chance, is the takeaway there.

We did some brainstorming on potential business ideas as well, and I’ll throw those out over the course of the coming weeks. Feel free to poke holes in any of the ideas, or work to make them stronger and more refined. But remember, as Byron Reeves, director of the Center for Study of Language and Information at Stanford University told the group, “It is easier to be perceived as intelligent if you critique rather than advocate.” It’s much harder to see the potential of an idea, and build on it. That’s the challenge I put to all of you. And remember to enjoy the ride.

May 10, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink


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i thought i commented on this before. you inviting any small game changing brands to participate? redmonk is one.

Posted by: james governor | May 22, 2007 6:39:22 AM

James, I've seen Redmonk before from your previous posts. I'll bring it to the attention of the folks at IBM. FYI...the media and content dives are over and we'll be transitioning the blog to Africa this week. So stay tuned, it's going to get really interesting.

Dan Briody

Posted by: Dan Briody | May 26, 2007 5:40:52 AM

I agree with so interesting that it is completely possible to create the desired world within SL

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