I’ve been stewing about this post for long time and finally figured I just needed to write something to get it off my mind. Thanks to Terry Heaton for pushing me over the edge, you might read his post before continuing.
A couple of years ago I started a conversation with the general manager of a local television station about an iPhone app I was designing with a friend. As the conversation moved forward he began to make changes to functionality and we both became increasingly frustrated. Eventually the deal fell apart, which is fine, things happen.
Among those who are helping chart the future of digital media there is a common request. “We need leaders, not managers.” Leaders lead. They create, they inspire, they encourage others to do the same. This is what is happening in the new software companies. Managers, on the other hand, execute a model that has been handed to them. They often encourage the status quo, for many reasons, including personal security and, I think most often, fear of the unknown.
At one point during my conversations with the GM he became frustrated with me, saying, “You and (other meteorologist) are always out there 17 steps ahead of everyone.” I wanted to say, “That is why you need to follow us.”, but by that time the deal was falling apart anyway. This particular manager did not own a smart phone at the time and was unaware that the web is not TV.
Two managers from a really “old media” company once told me. “We usually look at what is going on on the west coast and the east coast, and if it is working we’ll do it”, and, “You should develop that and come back to us in five years and we’ll see how it is going.” Mangers are not know for speed.
And yet another manager told me, “We’ve suspended work on the iPhone app to work on the iPad.” The part he was missing was that if people are not using the iPhone app, they are not going to use the iPad app either. Content is king.
Listeners to our WeatherBrains netcast know that I am particularly frustrated with the use of Facebook and Twitter as distribution platforms for weather information. And now, here comes Google+. Yes, you need to be on those platforms, that is where the people are, but what I see so far is managing, not leading.
At the end of the day we still need to monetize. These new tools are being misused because they continue the same old model as before, lack of accurate measurement. The old ratings system used to be the only game in town, but exactly how many people were really watching based on a small sample of the market. As advertisers get smarter about digital media they will demand better metrics. It is nice that you have 6,542 followers, but how many of them saw your tweet?
Managers, after some time, caught up to “Tweets’ and “Likes”, and eventually they’ll get around to “+’s”…but the leaders were out developing those platforms…so the managers could (mis)use them.
Here is a valuable tip. The next “big” thing is distributing your content. It could be a natural evolution…or it could be that some leader will create it.