Music Media Makeover

We have more ways to communicate, stay in touch and interact easily and intuitively than at any other point in time.

But we don't seem to communicate more effectively than if we had only books, television, radio and hard wired telephones.

We email, text message and use our voice plans to the max but no one can say with certainty that we actually communicate better.

Technology has given us virtually everyone's attention in the modern world, but increasingly many of us are driven to distraction.

We have access to more content than ever before -- at the touch of a mouse or a brief tickle of computer keys on a Google search.

But we haven't increased our understanding of anything in as exponential a way to coincide with technological advances.

Tons of info -- not as much emphasis on what to do with it all.

We multi-task instead of prioritize failing to learn productivity's greatest lesson -- 20% of what we do is responsible for 80% of our results.

What to make of the present Internet, mobile and social revolution that has debilitated traditional society and its media while presenting a tantalizing view of what the future could bring.

I often write about the shortsightedness of media executives as they try to make consumers experience media the way they did when they were young. The results are obvious. Record labels clueless about the future and sinking fast every six months as revenue tails off. Still their leaders can find no answers other than lawsuits, CD reclamation projects and fantasies of all-you-can-consume music for $14.99 a month.

They clearly do not understand nor are they willing to accept the new influence of Gen Y.

Radio executives who insist that what they do must be consumed the way they want their listeners to use it -- not the way consumers with many more modern options choose to enjoy it.

Radio execs seem willing to take their businesses down for the count rather than "go to school" on this enigmatic generation that they fail to understand.

Growth can not be possible for records or radio if these businesses do not include the next generation.

A few weeks back -- perhaps you noticed -- Randy Michaels' Tribune Company (LA Times, Chicago Tribune, et al) gave Associated Press its contractually-required two year notice that the Tribune Company is not renewing. This is fascinating since newspapers have been shrinking their newsrooms and local reportage. It wouldn't be too harsh to say that if newspapers are anything today they are AP regurgitators.

There are rumors that CNN may get into the wire service business. With all due respect to CNN, that's not an increase in quality.

Money considerations continue to drive our ability to put forth a better product in an age of total digital access.

Radio operators are falling all over themselves to become "network affiliates" of anything other than programming developed and paid for by them. The result is and will continue to be a weakened radio product that is driven by budgetary considerations not the potential of improving quality programming. You don't have to be a genius to predict what's going to happen as a result.

The budget cuts won't be enough.

The audience will continue to decline as operators let their brands deteriorate.

Advertisers will jump ship.

And we've made so many miscalculations for so many years you can actually see the next failures in real time as they are happening.

For example....

Television is mortally wounded as a destination boob tube for couch potatoes. That's right, TV should have aiming at the YouTube consumer. Today's generation is more vitally linked to YouTube than the boob tube. In fact, how many days go buy that you don't click on a YouTube video you've discovered or someone sent you?

So television is beginning its long goodbye -- the one nearing midpoint for radio and records and the last days for newspapers.

You can see the mistakes, as I said, in real time.

Offering over-the-air TV shows online free in return for pre-roll commercials. What a money loser.

They don't know the next generation well enough to know that simply rerunning TV programs is not the great digital beyond -- it's an extension of their programming strategies that used to work.

How can so many smart people let this happen, you ask?

Plainly put, we don't understand the next generation -- the Millennials (Gen Y) born between 1982 and 2003.

The largest generation ever -- bigger than baby boomers.

The first generation to hijack its own media, its own communication, its own type of digital socialization.

A generation less consumed with conflict than economic reform.

Less likely to embrace the histrionics of talk radio, read dead words in printed newspapers or be entertained by corporate types that confuse them for baby boomers.

Let me repeat that -- the baby boomer media executives that are not succeeding by anyone's standards today (Wall Street stock value, audience ratings, advertising revenue, critical acclaim, social acceptance, etc) are confusing these millenials for themselves -- baby boomers.

It may be true that slightly older Gen X'ers are more closely allied to baby boomers in many ways, but Gen Y is another story yet.

In my sabbatical from broadcasting, I underwent a great transformation as I taught the next generation of college students. So impressed with the importance of knowing the next generation better, I concluded that media companies would be wise to embrace generational media. As most of you know I then opened a private practice in generational media and I often refer to Apple CEO Steve Jobs as the most intuitive example of being from one generation and understanding the needs and desires of a younger one.

While on the USC campus I discovered Morley Winograd, a professor and head of the Institute for Communication Technology Management at the Marshall School. He was a senior policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore and director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) from December 1, 1997 until January 20, 2001.

Along with Michael Hais, former VP for Entertainment Research for Frank Magid Associates, he has written a book called Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics (Rutgers University Press, 2008).

As my readers know, I am happy to call out media executives for making a total mess of the communications business.

But I'd also like to assign some homework -- to the willing.

There are plenty of books about the next generation but this one may be a compelling starting point for those who actually want to do something about the things I rant and rave about in this space. I think you'll appreciate this recommendation. So go to Amazon and order it. I know some may think I'm just promoting a USC professors book, but it doesn't need me -- it's a hit.

In the months ahead I intend to share with you some strategies that traditional (and new) media should embrace in light of this different world we live in. Not just different technologically. That's part of the problem. Traditional media execs think it's all about technology. That's only part of the story.

Technology has allowed a new, populous generation to emerge in a trendsetting position.

Don't you think as a next step it would be good to get to the bottom of how to succeed in the digital future?

The difference between succeeding and failing is knowing the difference between technology and sociology -- and how they converge -- to offer a blueprint for music and media success.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: First you must check your mail or spam filter to verify your subscription immediately after signing up before daily service can begin.
Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.