Weekend Media Threads, June 8, 2019

I was chatting with someone this week about change within an organization. Change is never easy or simple, but it does seem to take hold in some areas quicker than others. Some people have a knack for it while others expel more energy avoiding change than they would have if they just changed in the first place.

If I knew why this was the case I would probably be well on my way to retirement thanks to a lucrative book deal. But my colleague did bring up an interesting point that hadn’t occurred to me previously. Many jobs, careers, college majors, etc. require that you learn a specific skill, and while the tools around that skill may change over the course of your career, the basic skill never changes.

Thus, most of us are never required to go through change so that ways of doing things become habits and become ingrained in us to the point that it feels impossible to change. To most people it’s not about the energy needed to make the change, it’s about the fear of the change.

We’ve done the same thing for three, five, 10, 20 or even 30 years, why would we change now?

We can’t.

And if we do, what happens?

What if it doesn’t work?

Will we have to change back?

Or change to another new way?

It’s been working this long.

Someone else tried this and it failed.

These are all just straw man arguments. Not that those making the arguments don’t have valid concerns, or shouldn’t be heard. I would argue that each of these reasons should be considered and discussed. But none of these is a reason not to make necessary change.

And this is where it’s up to leadership to articulate to those around them a a clear vision of how the forest will look rather than focusing on a single tree. It’s hard to see when change is needed because it can be frightening for many reasons. Change isn’t easy, and it’s rarely simple. But death by a thousand cuts is deadly.

This sounds very familiar …

I’m sharing this opinion piece from Ad Age because it reads like something I would (try to) write. The title, “Oh, great, old-media people are supposed to fix digital media (again),” reminds me of the question I’ve asked at newspaper companies for years – when will newspapers stop allowing the people who drove us into the ditch get us out?

The answer is always something along the line of, sure they were at the wheel when it drove into the ditch, but it’s not really their fault.

And the fact that they can’t get us out? Well, the ditch is deeper than we thought.

The real answer is that there is a lot of risk turning over vast amounts of revenue to executives who don’t have the experience managing it. Which is a reasonable way to manage an organization. But at some point – and soon – publishers will need to figure out how to take some risks. Otherwise all of the dire projections on the death of newspapers will become a reality.

How much is behavioral ad targeting worth?

Turns out the answer to the above question – at least for publishers – is not much. According to a report, conducted between University of Minnesota, University of California, Irvine and Carnegie Mellon University, publishers receive a 4% increase in revenue from ads served with cookies enabled versus those that aren’t.

Remember, that 4% increase would be off of a small base for most publishers. Somehow that doesn’t seem worth it.

ESPN is trying too hard

I didn’t watch, and neither did my basketball-loving 15-year-old or his friends, but ESPN decided it would simulcast game two of the NBA Finals on it’s owned app and make it lit for the kids. When I asked my son whether he and his friends watch ESPN at all, he just laughed.

ESPN has been trying too hard for years, and this is just the most recent example. It feels like a bunch of execs sat in a room and had this conversation:

Exec 1: My grandson is doing something calls the Twitch. What’s the Twitch?

Exec 2: Not sure, I’ll have my assistant Google that.

Assistant streams Twitch to corporate TV screen

Exec 1: I don’t get it.

Exec 2: Yeah, but I hear gen-z kids like it.

Exec 1: Oh, and our research shows the kids like the NBA, too. Wouldn’t it be cool if we did that with the NBA Finals? The kids like

Execs 3: Yes, the kids would think that is lit.

Execs 4 – 7: Ha! Ha! Ha!

I like that they are trying to change and that they are attempting to do something different, but this just stinks of being out of touch. I get that there can be a fine line between innovation and being out of touch, but whoever thought this was right thing to do crossed that line.

Uncle Sam Investigating Google’s Ad Dominance Online

The U.S. government has largely allowed big online media companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple) to grow – whether organically or through acquisition the competition – unfettered. As concerns grow over privacy and potential monopolies, it looks like this era of online media may be coming to an end.

According to this Reuters report:

The U.S. government is gearing up to investigate the massive market power of Amazon.com Inc, Apple, Facebook and Google, sources told Reuters on Monday, setting up what could be an unprecedented wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies.

What this means for the market and whether it will change anything is a long way from being settled, but it will be worth watching.

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