The making of a (new) media company

LeBron JamesSports fans of every stripe are waiting to see where LeBron James will play basketball next season. He’s the top of a free agent class that has NBA fans salivating over possibilities. “Where will King James play?” It’s the sports question of the summer, and James’ business interests demand that he drag it out until the last possible moment. That moment will apparently be tonight in a live televised “event” on ESPN at 9:00 EDT.

LeBron James is a brand, a (new) media brand, and his people are milking the attention for all they can get. It’s either a thing of beauty or a damning lesson in how people like James — on many, many levels — don’t need “the media” anymore to develop themselves into something far beyond what their athletic (or whatever) skills can take them.

James launched a Twitter account (KingJames) yesterday, and within two hours, had 130,000 followers. As of this writing, that number has ballooned to 300,000. People are following him in droves, because that’s what people do with celebrities and Twitter. Meanwhile, James is gathering fans unto himself. Here’s his new website, one that just happens to be launching at the same time.

LeBron James' new website

Note how cleverly the welcome page is written and how James is gathering a virtual army of names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers that he can do, well, anything with downstream.

The launch date is nearing for the online home of LeBron James and you can put yourself on the guest list!

Personally directed by LeBron, the new site will keep you up to speed on his actions off the court, his focus on strengthening the community and why “It will always be about more than basketball”.

Enter your e‑mail address and mobile number to receive important announcements from LeBron. Get your information straight from the source, right when it happens.

It says nothing about where he’s going to play as it scoops up millions of bits of marketing data that can be used for just about anything. It promises nothing about basketball. Will fans care? I don’t think so, and LeBron James Inc. will be in the direct marketing business with both feet. In the future, LeBron’s team will be able to sell access to these people on a wide variety of topics, because they’ll get the messages “straight from the source, right when it happens.” Nice, huh? You think Nike won’t want to have LeBron send such messages to his fans on their behalf? What’s that worth?

This is both the new world and the new reality, and it’s only going to expand. Personal brands will grow in their importance and significance, and those people of talent who aren’t already advancing their own brands — especially those in positions of public visibility (like TV people) — are missing the real message that anybody can be a media company these days.

It’s the great disruptor of traditional media, for even the people formerly known as the advertisers are playing the game.

(Originally published in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel Newsletter)

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