Old magic

Last Wednesday, I asked whether book publishers like Penguin and Random House needed to combine assets to be able to innovate. Borrowing from two other useful posts, I wondered if the opposite might happen.

David Worlock has been posing similar questions for European newspaper and television businesses. In a post he wrote last month, Worlock asked:

“Why, O why, when business models fail, do bankers and businessmen fall victim to the idea that if we did things bigger, cheaper, or louder then the old magic would return?”

He then pulls apart David Montgomery’s plan to roll up a series of regional newspapers and grow big enough to survive. Worlock observes “that the UK regional press has lost touch with 'local' – and rather than rationalization, it needs to rediscover the proximity, recency and inter-activity which will characterize the services that they next offer.”

Toward the end of his post, Worlock makes an almost casual observation about network television programming:

“All that the television world lacks is really good metadata in order to enable a programme guide which would allow you to follow the television that you like, and arrange it into time patterns that suit you. Once that tagging can be ascribed automatically, we shall be able to test whether most people really do want to see the event when it is broadcast – or cheaper and later and ad-free.”

Yes, that would radically alter the model for networks that are currently ad-driven businesses. But as Fox saw in 2011, frustrating demand is a short route to piracy.

Then again, maybe a customer-driven model leaves little room for networks or publishers to prosper. If so, consolidation and resistance to technology can be seen as valid options in a liquidation strategy. If you don’t think there’s a future for you, delaying the inevitable starts to make sense.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.