It’s the algorithms, baby!

Diane Mermigas is at it again. Her latest Hollywood Reporter column is a challenge to media companies to face the future by looking outside their comfort zone.

To be sure, Google’s road map of evolving search services is being guided by algorithmic strategies that are foreign to the creative likes of publishing, filmmaking, television production, marketing and advertising. But a willingness to embrace the new math and science of connecting with and selling to consumers and advertisers will make artistic media’s leap onto the digital broadband fast track quicker and more profitable.

…the time has come for more deliberate reflection: surveying the big picture, getting in tune with consumer and advertiser responses and needs and thinking outside the box — whether it is a TV set, DVD player, Xbox, dust jacket or iPod.

…The next big new-media idea will reach beyond helping consumers and advertisers to find what they seek (through search) to giving them the tools to do something with it.

This is the same point that I made with a client company last week in Florida. It’s not enough to be a content company anymore, because it isn’t the content that makes money in the old media world — it’s the infrastructure that produces the bundle within which the content is delivered. And that infrastructure is basically irrelevant now.

In our increasingly unbundled world, we make a significant mistake, if all we do is offer our content to those who’ve figured out the unbundled distribution platforms. We’ll make money — as Diane notes — but in so doing, we’re feeding the disruptive innovation that’s undercutting our way of life. Future success and profitability in the media world will come with the algorithms that make the unbundled world work, and we simply have no choice but to get in the water.

I’ll be with Diane next month in Seattle at a conference on public broadcasting, and I’m really looking forward to it.


  1. Assuming ‘algorithms’ is both literal and a metaphor for ‘sensibilities’ that the old media has struggled to understand and use, I believe many execs understand there is a divide and they are trying their best to address it. I’ll also bet they see downloadable shows as low-hanging fruit. It is something they can do NOW, quickly, and show results, while they continue to try to evolve their strategies. Many people think these short-term steps show old media doesn’t get it and/or is moving too slowly. Moving too slowly – I tend to agree, but you try turning the Titanic 90 degrees on a dime.

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