Blue circle thinking; green circle thinking

The earliest iterations of online media were all text-based, because that’s all the bandwidth could handle. This suited the newspaper industry, and it’s the principal reason that the presentation of information online follows a model that is essentially a newspaper. Content is presented on “pages.” The idea of a “home” page — front page — that serves as a doorway to everything inside IS a newspaper. Online advertising is the same. Display ads, artificial page folds, value based on page placement and so forth are all newspaper concepts.

Most importantly, the portal model of organizing information is very much built on this foundation. In many ways back in the ’90s, AOL was a glorified online newspaper. Inherent in this model is an advertising ecosystem that is limited by the “walls” of the portal, its URL.

Even television stations have been dragged into this model, and understanding this is critical, if you wish to understand the disruption of Media 2.0.

A few years ago, Gordon Borrell’s company and the Harvard Business School created the illustration below. I’ve altered it a bit to make a point, but what we have is essentially a enlarging circle that I’ve labeled “Media 2.0” moving into the circle representing Media 1.0. I think it’s farther along today, but the message that both Gordon and I were trying to deliver five years ago was that opportunity was within the expanding green circle, not the blue. But here’s the point: generally, what we see today from media companies is the gray area — Media 1.0 disguised as Media 2.0.

The Media 2.0 disruption

Another very important point to understand is that the green area is not being created or funded by the traditional media of the blue circle. Consequently, it doesn’t give a hoot about what the blue does, and the view from the green is very different than the view from the blue. And the view from the green is finding its way into publication with increasing frequency, and it is apparently not even read by those coming from the blue. That’s a shame, for how can you truly enter the disruption unless you’re willing to accept its point-of-view.

As I wrote below, JR Raphael at The Inquisitr wrote an interesting piece about Gannett’s new media applications. Could Television’s Fall Be Closer Than We Thought?” is an excellent example of the view from within the green circle.

Another trend you’ll notice is Gannett stations heavily promoting a new concept branded as the “Information Center,” which is basically just the idea of their local Web site combined with the broadcast news. It’s really the same stuff with a new name and new promotional push. (emphasis mine) Ironically enough, most of the stations are operating with far fewer people, so while the Web sites have a slightly updated look, their resources are not as robust as one might be led to believe. In actuality, most modern mainstream journalists just do double duty, splitting their time between broadcast and online work. Still, the notion highlights the industry’s attempt to at least outwardly rebrand itself away from its long-standing primary interest.

So what Raphael “sees” (and frankly, what others in the green see) is questionable strategy in the “Information Center” concept that Gannett is following. It’s just another version of the old newspaper portal idea that’s been around since the beginning, another effort that lies within the gray zone.

This does not go unnoticed by the venture capital community that is funding the disruption. Rockefeller family investor Rich Moran told Beet.tv a few weeks ago that the best media companies could do was “bolt new ideas onto the old,” and. as a result, online video was in danger of passing by traditional media completely. This is the kind of thing that happens when you insist on maintaining your view entirely from the blue circle.

I’m passionate about this, because after I left television in 1998, I spent three years inside the green circle running an internet start-up. It was an amazing crossover experience, and it keeps me encouraging others to examine the view from over “there.” It’s why I think the way I do and why my RSS reader is likely filled with feeds that blue circle thinkers don’t read.

Local media needs reinvention, not just new ways of doing old things. Why everybody in media sticks to the online newspaper model is the biggest mystery of all to me. Just because it’s safe, everybody else is doing it, and it “seems” to be working (much of the online revenue growth in recent years has more to do with newness than sound strategy, IMO) doesn’t mean it’s good strategy for the future. At AR&D, we recognize that media companies must operate in both circles, which is why our strategic thrust is Simulpath™, but you’d be amazed (perhaps not) at how hard it is to move minds into the green.

(A version of this was originally published in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel newsletter)

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