Holding back the (good) flood

A “stopper-doer” is an old term signifying a person who stands in the way of forward progress. Often well-intentioned and protective of the establishment, these people can stop any movement they view as negative. It can be a good thing to have one of these fellows (or gals) around, but for local broadcasters and the internet, these people would be best kept in a locked room somewhere.

There are two types of stopper-doers who are preventing local media companies from truly moving forward with regards to creative web strategies.

The first is local advertisers and especially advertising agencies. If you think local media companies are ignorant regarding innovation, then local advertisers are ignorance gone to seed. When approached with anything out-of-the-box, most will ask, “Well, what’s the audience size? Show me the numbers, man.” Blank stares are all that greets concepts like engagement, influence, loyalty or any other new media metric. Mass marketing may be dying, but that word hasn’t filtered down to the local level yet.

And nobody in local advertising is capable, it seems, of looking downstream to the world of possibility.

I find this enormously frustrating when trying to work with local stations, because the big technology players easily attract national advertisers who are more hip to imaginative new concepts and thus fund them. These are the same players who are moving in to seize local niches on many levels, and they “speak” directly to people who wish to advertise — not the keepers of most local ad dollars, the ad agencies. This means these outsiders are free to explore and establish in what is essentially a land grab at the local level. And even if a local company can match the application tit-for-tat, they’re at a disadvantage, because these local stopper-doers are too busy saying, “Duh.”

The challenge to media companies, then, is to find a way to speak to agency people and advertisers in terms that they’ll understand, and that’s not easy when you’ve built your life around reach and frequency.

The second set of stopper-doers are the lawyers who represent the companies that own the local stations. Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not so much the lawyers themselves as it is the GMs and corporate managers who don’t or won’t challenge the opinions (that’s what they are) of people paid to create the safest possible scenario for their clients. I find little willingness to legally explore citizens media opportunities or take any legal position other than that which is the most conservative possible. It’s often, “Oh, our lawyers would never permit that.” Permit?

This stems, I think, from an entirely economic, bean counter perspective, and it produces behavior that any shrink would view as dysfunctional. “Let’s only make right turns as we drive downtown today, because statistics show that you’re more likely to be in an accident while making a left turn. Can’t take that chance, you know.”

That’s easy for you to say, Terry. It’s not your company (or money) that you’re trying to protect.

Yeah, but you pay lawyers to give you their opinion and then follow those opinions as if the attorney owned the company. Of course the lawyer’s opinion is going to be conservative. That’s his or her job! But when your ship is heading for the iceberg at full speed, do you veer to the right or left or stay the course, because the bottom line says you must?

Do you see the insanity of this?

Where are the people with the balls to say, “Find a way to defend this,” instead of, “Well, I guess we just can’t take that chance?” Does the name Rupert Murdoch ring a bell?

And why not use the legal process to restructure your company to create protections by putting new media efforts in a separate corporation? There ARE ways to do creative things without exposing yourself to what you view as untenable risk, and to discard those along with creative concepts for new media because you “might” have problems is corporate malfeasance, in my opinion.

This is not the season to listen to the stopper-doers.

Comments

  1. Very beautiful and interesting blog! I enjoy reading you blog… keep it up guys!
    Respect you!

  2. I posted this in the Corante Media Hub, “Keeping local advertising in local media enterprises.” It probably fits as well or better in your blog article.

    In St Petersburg Florida, we built a local advertising based WiFi zone we called St Pete SmarTown. We offered free WiFi access and built a local content and advertising portal to financially support the wireless access costs. When looking for content partners we decided to work with the local TV and Newspapers companies. As we began our discussions with them, we found ourselves right in the middle of the Old Media and New Media shuffle. As a promoter of local WiFi zones, we were looked at as the invading New Media, threatening the cozy local media giants who now had to find a way to work with this new technology. As time went on, they began to realize that we were their friend and the national search engine companies were actually the enemy.

    SmarTown had a very simple business philosophy. When a person would walk into a WiFi zone, the WiFi radio would sense the location and present information pertinent to the location of the WiFi user. A local geo portal would open up and display the businesses within the area, offering non obtrusive click on pull information. In the back end of the portal, businesses would offer real time text, voice or video information. The local newspaper offered daily online digital content while the local TV station streamed top news stories. The end result was that local content and advertising remained local.

    SmarTown was just trying to find a local content partner and ended up finding that its model may be saving what is left in real media content. As we reviewed national content, we saw it becoming homogenized by all national media, gathered few local facts and was edited into stories supported by a few panel experts. It became clear that real news came from local information sources which are financially support by local media advertising. If you loose local advertising revenue to the national search engine aggregates, we can expect the degradation of local media revenues which in turn will negatively affect the quality of real fact finding local news content.

    To end this story, St. Pete SmarTown was a success with hundreds of registered WiFi users and thousand of hits per month in the local portal. The local media let us use their content but still did not want to officially support the project. It’s was still a little too bleeding edge for them. Sadly if they got it and worked closer to our project, they would understand how the New Media bleeding edge technology could be used as a blood transfer to the Old Media. They could protect existing local Old Media advertising revenues while preparing for future New Media revenues. Oh well, I guess you just wait. In the mean time, if you know anyone that wants to save their local media let me know. No “stopper-doers” please.

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