April 26, 2006

Media - Wide-eyed and Anxious

One of the benefits of working at a services firm such as Adaptive Path is that you really get to have your fingers on the pulse of what is happening in business. For the first few years after starting our company in 2001, many of our projects were marketing-communication sites (i.e., brochureware), because even in a down economy, marketers have money.

That's changed recently. We're getting called by more product managers -- companies in an upmarket seem keen on investing in new product capabilities.

A new trend has really made itself apparent. This morning I had a conversation with a representative from a public broadcasting station. Discussions with people working for media outlets are becoming common occurrences at Adaptive Path. And what's clear is that The Media is made very anxious by the current media landscape.

Over the last month or so, we've received RFPs or other leads from: a national news channel; a national news magazine; a regional newspaper with national aspirations; and this public broadcasting station.

Each of them has had essentially the same question: What do we do? Many have realized all the opportunity they can with business as usual. And they're seeing that users are linking in (through search results, through blogs) to single articles and bouncing out. And that they are increasingly using intermediaries such as blogs and feed readers. And that community and social media sites (like Wikipedia or Youtube) are starting to eat their lunch. Oh, and that Craigslist is taking away a key source of revenue.

I don't have any glib answers. From what I can tell, the smart approaches for each of these companies has been different, depending on that organization. The only thing that does make sense is that these media companies have to be *of the Web*, not on the Web. (Okay, maybe one glib answer.) They have to embrace the principles of the sandbox, of web 2.0, of transparency and openness, of remixability and co-creation. But they are individually going to have to figure out what such principles mean for them.

I think it's an exciting time to be in media. But that's probably because I'm not in media.

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