Anyone who has done their share of business travel has no doubt had the same surreal experience I had last month when I went from New York to Las Vegas to Seattle and back to New York in 48 hours. Lots of miles, lots of on and off with my shoes and some pretty radical “climate changes”: From 88 degree temperatures and 88 percent humidity in New York, to 113 degrees in Las Vegas, 75 sunny degrees (yes, sunny) in Seattle and before I knew it back to a muggy NYC. It was like living three seasons all at the same time.
And then it struck me – three seasons at once is also what the media and communications businesses are like these days. Pick-up a paper, read an industry e-newsletter, watch the evening news and in any 48 hour period you’re bombarded with as many stories about the changing media landscape as would have previously happened in an entire year. From big stories, like what’s really happening with Google, Verizon and Net-neutrality to word of yet another Kindle price-cut and a slew of executive suite changes – there’s a lot going on simultaneously – especially considering we’re in the dog days of summer!
What also struck me was that this is a moment in media where everything is true. Take a quick look around any airport or flight and you can see it happening right in front of you: people reading newspapers, magazines, books, watching in-flight TV, reading on Kindles and iPads – even surfing the web and posting to Facebook from 30,000 feet.
So how do you do business at a time when everything happens at once and everything also happens to be true? You experiment – with new offerings, new formats and new pricing models. Just look at the differing approaches being used with iPad apps by the New York Times and the Wall St. Journal. Is it better to give content away and bank on sponsorship dollars or are you better-served building a business around generating more money from consumers? There are no one-size fits all guarantees anymore – except perhaps that business as usual isn’t a good option.
Despite the unsettling nature of change – be it climate change or media behavior – the inner optimist in me says that the media business is headed somewhere new, somewhere exciting and somewhere we’ll look back on in 10 years and say, “I was there when this great, new bull market got started.” Now let’s hope that we can say the same about the global economy.