The times they are a-changing have changed

Steve Denning's newest bookHere are a couple of great lines from a Forbes article by Steve Denning, “Resolving The Identity Crisis Of American Capitalism:”

Once making money becomes the goal of a firm, companies and their executives start to do things that not only lose money for the firm but cause problems for the economy…

…Customer capitalism involves a shift (of) the focus of companies to delighting the customer and away from shareholder value, which is the result of delighting the customer.

The shift to customer capitalism doesn’t involve sacrifices for the shareholders, the organizations or the economy. That’s because customer capitalism is not just profitable: it’s hugely profitable.

The shift to customer capitalism does however require fundamental changes in management. The command-and-control management of hierarchical bureaucracy is inherently unable to delight anyone—it was never intended to. To delight customers, a radically different kind of management needs to be in place, with a different role for the managers, a different way of coördinating work, a different set of values and a different way of communicating.

The shift to customer capitalism also involves a major power shift within the organization. Instead of the company being dominated by traders and salesmen who can pump up the numbers and the accountants who can come up with cuts needed to make the quarterly targets, those who add genuine value to the customer have to re-occupy their rightful place.

What I love most about Denning’s approach is the use of the word “customer,” when many others would use the term “consumer.”

Burn this into your mind and into the minds of those around you: We have entered a new era. Period. It’s not on the horizon; we’re already there. Those who take a leadership position and beat their competitors to the punch are GUARANTEED the top spot in this new era’s business infrastructure. It’s all about the customer today. Making money is the end, not the means anymore. It has to be that way. The beancounters and manipulators are lesser players in the new status quo, because, as Steven Covey wrote many years ago, “You can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into.”

Umair Haque wrote in 2004 that in a networked world, the emphasis must be on the product, not marketing. Jay Rosen says basically the same thing in his brilliant thoughts about “The Great Horizontal” and “Audience Atomization Overcome.”

Dylan’s classic song noted that “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” but I’m much more inclined today to say that they’ve already changed. When the brightest business minds of the day — and I certainly include Steve Denning in that group (John Hagel, too) — shift their thinking from hard core making money to hard core customer service, it’s time to give up on an agenda that only defends the past.

Reporter job ad, circa June 2012

Jay Rosen (via Twitter) pointed me to this advertisement for a reporter in New Orleans. It’s from the NOLA Media Group, via NOLA.com, and it’s a far, far cry from reporter jobs posted when I was in “the biz.”

Job Details

The Reporter will report and produce news stories for various platforms, and act as a statewide expert and discussion leader on high-value topics, meeting audience demand for immediacy, depth and engagement.

  • Gather information and write journalistically sound news elements for use in all media platforms, existing and future, that is: balanced and factual; timely and topical; and, well –sourced and contextually correct
  • Learn and employ all techniques for effective digital “beat-blogging” reporting across all platforms
  • Post frequent and incrementally posting throughout the day
  • Engage in story aggregation and topical link-posting
  • Monitor and engage in reader comment streams on nola impact pages
  • Elevate comments into new posts when appropriate
  • Interact on social media platforms, with story shares, objective commentary, promoting your topic and news organization’s content initiatives
  • Effectively employ various means for monitoring audience interest and competitors’ posting on your topic, including setting up Google alerts, Twitter and RSS feeds
  • Maintain operational communication with editor and, when applicable, production center,
  • Understand and use hardware, software and cloud-based equipment and systems for direct-to-web production and engagement, including but not limited to:
  • Posting photographs and short videos to the web and any internal production systems
  • Remote web reporting, using laptops and smart phones
  • Understand and use our news organization’s audience traffic tracking systems and analytical reports
  • Meet production deadlines

Requirements

  •  Degree in Journalism or Communications or related field required
  • Minimum of 2 years of journalism experience with a proven ability in reporting and writing required
  • Proven experience building, maintaining and engaging an active audience
  • Ability to work independently under deadline pressure and prioritize tasks appropriately
  • Demonstrated reporting, writing and organizational skills
  • Solid understanding of news writing, journalistic ethics and story structure
  • Experience with search engine optimization practices
  • Experience with using social media to source and promote content a plus
  • Demonstrated capability in capitalizing on high-value topics by engaging audiences in frequency and urgency
  • Understanding of the methods and tools used to deliver content across a variety of platforms such as Moveable Type CMS, SCC Budgeting and Archiving System, Smartphones
  • Understanding imperatives of multiple platforms – print, mobile, Internet, etc.
  • Mastery of social media and digital interaction
  • Proven ability to utilize a broad set of tools to tell stories and engage the audience
  • Ability to leverage relationships with sources to deliver content that differentiates the organization from competitors
  • Ability to work independently and remotely

I suspect this will evolve even further as the news business itself continues to evolve. To quote (once again) Henry Adams, “The way of nature is change, but the dream of man is order.”

Henry Blodget is Right. TV is in Trouble

Here is the latest in my now 10-year old and ongoing series of essays, Local Media in a Postmodern World.

Henry Blodget is Right: TV is in Trouble

I realize that some of you may not like this probing of a controversial article by Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, but it’s very important that we be honest with ourselves about the message – that shifting consumer behaviors make this a very dangerous time for our business. Blodget compared TV to newspapers before revenue calamity struck. This issue is highly complex and multi-faceted, but the way the industry has rejected Blodget’s argument out-of-hand is disturbing, because he’s very likely right (I certainly agree with him on the broader message).

This is why AR&D has written three books about these changes and dedicated our own resources to helping figure out solutions. It all begins with the acceptance and courage that only real leaders embrace, and that usually begins with speaking the truth.

The most important thing to understand about this discussion is that it is FUTURE-driven and not at all about today. That’s why the use of contemporary data to justify denial is so self-destructive. An intelligently-delivered future view may be right or it may be wrong, but it’s always worth consideration.

Come on in,” said the spider to the fly

Broadcasters don't seem to realize their getting hosedMedia companies have no choice but to leap into the queue for Twitter’s new “expanded tweets” application, but I want to add my voice to those who suggest that this might be ultimately a well-placed shot in the foot for content originators. Sure, we may be able to better attract eyeballs to our content to encourage those click-throughs, but it’s also arming Twitter with a clever way to build its own media empire at our expense.

Of greatest concern to me is the definition of the term “media company,” for that applies to everyone today, including the people formerly known as the advertisers. Twitter and all of social media provides a way for the people with the money to by-pass traditional filters, such as legacy media companies. Don’t ever forget this when reading the new media tea leaves.

Mathew Ingram of GigaOm has nailed another issue for local media companies that use  new media opportunities to extend their brands: that they’re being drawn into a clever trap that they seemingly can’t avoid.

…there comes a point where a partner can start to look like a competitor if you tilt your head the right way, and I would argue that Twitter is nearing that point. Facebook is also a partner for media companies who use it to host their comments, or have brand pages there, or rely on the social network to promote their work through “frictionless sharing” apps. But at times it can seem as much like competition — particularly for users’ attention — as it does a partner.

That’s part of what I think blogging pioneer Dave Winer means when he warns that media companies should not see Twitter as their friend. To the extent that Twitter is offering news consumers of all kinds access to the information they want — regardless of whether that information consists of “user-generated content” or links to other media outlets — it is a competitor. And to the extent that it can offer better curation or aggregation or filtering or targeting of that content, it will win.

At some point, we simply have to realize that the Web isn’t about mass media and that there are a staggering number of mostly Silicon Valley web entities out there that hope we never figure it out.

Damn those knowledgeable customers!

Regular readers here know my views about marketing over the past 100 years. The word took on pejorative tones with the Creel Committee, and reached its one-to-many pinnacle with the era of Mad Men. Edward Bernays was a part of the committee and widely regarded as the father of professional public relations. In his 1947 essay The Engineering of Consent, Bernays described how to manipulate the public (that’s you and me) with clever tactics. Here’s my favorite line:

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.”

This remarkable, narcissistic and cynical statement has crumbled before our eyes today, although most marketers secretly maintain that it’s still applicable. Why is it problematic today? Because people now are beginning to know the extent of the manipulation and are increasingly able to detect it when it’s happening. Hence, Bernays’ “without their knowing it” is problematic today when it wasn’t when Bernays first had the thought.

Thanks to the wonder of YouTube, here’s Bernays himself telling the story of how he advanced the interests of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Bernays’ “torches of freedom” campaign advanced the women’s rights issue for profit, something that continues even today.

Here’s another view of the growing sense that customers are aware of being manipulated. It comes via Doc Searls and his work with Project VRM (Vendor Rights Management). This is a graph comparing the use of the words “consumer” and “customer” in books written since 1780. Notice that the Mad Men era has a clear beginning and a clear end, and it all starts at roughly the same time as the Creel Committee and its work, including that of Edward Bernays. The word “customer” has skyrocketed in recent years, as writers have become increasingly convinced of the pejorative and manipulative reality of the word “consumer.”

books containing the words 'consumer' or 'customer'

This big cultural shift — along with many others brought about by disruptive innovations — signals the dawn of a whole new world with which businesses and people must deal in the years ahead. “Power to the people” has always been a revolutionary theme, and what we’re living is certainly that.

We live in interesting times.

Holy Twitter

preacher at the pulpitA New York Times article on religious broadcasters and Twitter misses a fairly big point while offering insight to “Twitter Dynamos, Offering Word of God’s Love.”

Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado and Andy Stanley were not well known inside Twitter’s offices. But they had all built loyal ranks of followers well beyond their social networks — they were evangelical Christian leaders whose inspirational messages of God’s love perform about 30 times as well as Twitter messages from pop culture powerhouses like Lady Gaga.

This may be a bulletin to the Times and the good folks at Twitter, but it shouldn’t be a surprise whatsoever to anybody.

Evangelical Christians have long been at the forefront of any technological means that furthers their evangelical ends. Two of the twelve transponders on RCA’s first (Satcom 1) satellite were owned by religious groups, including Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. The Christian Church is the penultimate one-to-many institution, whether it’s inside the worship hall or via the airwaves. Nobody “gets” mass marketing or the art of fundraising like these people do; it is their stock and trade.

This is the church.
This is the steeple,
Open it up
And see all the people.

When hologram transmission becomes a reality later this century, mark my words: Evangelicals will be right there.

The point that I want to note is that people who view Twitter or any form of social media completely as one-to-many miss its “social” reality. This is true of media, celebrities, politicos, athletes or, yes, the Evangelicals. It’s one thing to use it as a form of mass media, but the smart innovators know that who you follow is more important than who follows you. This is not, nor will it ever be what Evangelicals want or use Twitter for. It’s all about promoting their own ministries through blessing their followers with inspirational quotes.

Pastors tell me, Twitter is just made for the Bible,” (Twitter’s) Ms. Díaz-Ortiz said.

It’s close. On average, verses in the King James Version are about 100 characters long, leaving room to slip in a #bible hashtag and still come in under the 140-character limit.

And proverbs are powerful draws on Twitter.

Religion, like every other institution in the West is being challenged by young (and older) people with a much more postmodern view than their parents’ generation practiced. Top-down or one-to-many fits Modernist thinking, which includes a God-to-us-through-the-church perspective. Postmodernists prefer the concept of God among us, the Holy Spirit. The term “postmodern” is often substituted as “postChristian,” and this is a part of the same cultural disruption that everyone is facing.

I’ve always been a fan of the question “What would Jesus do?” because the answers are rarely what the coiners of the phrase intended. Since Jesus’ ministry was in and among the suffering, the poor and the afflicted, one must ask whether the ministry of “blessing the saints” is what Twitter could or even should represent to Christians. Perhaps one day the New York Times will write about a new ministry that monitors Twitter for signs of distress or suffering among the people of the world — and then rushes in to provide relief.

No, wait. Along with a giant, corporate groan among all these folks, I also hear faint sounds of, cough-cough, well Terry, cough-cough, that’s just not my ministry.