One of the most striking trends in 21st century innovation is the significant potential for media to create value on a global scale. Media, in all its forms, is fuelling economic growth, structural change and technological advances like never before. As society debates the role and influence of media in a “post-truth” world, it is increasingly apparent that the future of media is crucial to shaping the future of humanity.
Leading futurist Ross Dawson shared useful insights on how to create a vibrant future for media organizations in his keynote at the #SchibstedNext 2016 event in Olso, Norway held by Schibsted Media Group. You can see the video of the full keynote below.
Despite the widespread changes impacting the global media industry, Dawson pointed to the enduring and insatiable human appetite for information in a multichannel media world. “Arguably the entire economy is becoming based on media, the creation of messages, the flow of messages and where they are going,” Dawson observed.
Here are six key ways in which media organizations can empower themselves to create their own future, drawn from Dawson’s talk at #SchibstedNext.
1. Create a compelling vision
“The best way to predict the future of media is to create it,” Dawson told the media leaders assembled in Oslo. For today’s media organizations, achieving a successful transition to tomorrow hinges on understanding “who it is we can be, who it is we want to be, moving forward”.
Forging a compelling vision for your media organization and communicating it effectively is vital for staff to adapt to the merging of technology and humanity, Dawson said, in an era when “technology is more and more capable, taking more and more of who we are”.
Without a clear strategic vision, companies are more likely to be blinded by past successes and overpowered by technological change. As the report of the 2020 group for the New York Times recently put it:
“To do nothing, or to be timid in imagining the future, would mean being left behind.”
2. Translate experimentation into value creation
Today, in the space of a day, you can test an idea, see how people respond, and develop it further. This has become a fundamental capability of every organization in the entire media industry.
“Revenue is highly uncertain, so you need to be able to experiment, said Dawson. “For every experiment you should know what you want to learn, and when you learn that, you will be able to design the next experiment.”
Dawson referred to a basic test-and-learn model favored by entrepreneurs and outlined in The Lean Startup by Eric Ries: come up with an idea, put it into action, learn from that, iterate, and turn it into a result. “You can learn from others, absolutely, but you need to be able to create your own guidebook,” Dawson advised.
Part of converting experimentation into value creation is a focus on community: “being able to connect people, define what it is that’s common between them,” said Dawson, “to be able to create media which is relevant to all of those people, and to be able to filter that…to the individual…across many news or media organizations”.
3. Make the most of human and machine intelligence
Alongside advances in algorithms and the proliferation of convenient, high-tech user interfaces, robots and amateurs are now making music, art, video, and journalism in ways that were once limited to professionals. Dawson says:
“I believe that in the last twenty years one of the most important things is how technology has enabled our creativity. If we are looking for the best media, we must bring together the professionals — who have the expertise and the context — with the amateurs, with all of us, with the many that are enabled by technology to create new possibilities.”
Optimizing both human and machine intelligence will become increasingly critical to value creation as organizations collect ever more data and achieve new milestones in consumer knowledge and engagement.
4. Ensure a clear and dynamic platform strategy
As existing and emerging media platforms vie for our attention, a solid understanding of platforms and their relationship to value creation is essential to steer media towards a positive future.
The best platform strategies, in Dawson’s view, are dynamic and user-driven: “How is it you create value for participants? That’s the fundamental aspect of a platform,” he said, “Designing value for the participants in ways that they can create that together.”
In order to maximize value for participants across platforms, Dawson highlighted the role of data analysis, signal monitoring, user feedback loops, and collaboration with both internal and external platform creators.
5. Build on your existing capabilities and transcend their boundaries
A focus on transcending the boundaries has underpinned recent innovations in the media world, including the immersive virtual reality smartphone app available from the New York Times. Media organizations must continue to think beyond the boundaries—such as print, broadcast, and even digital—if they are to create more compelling experiences for the audiences of tomorrow. Dawson emphasized:
“You need to be able to say, what are our capabilities today? What are we great at? What are we distinct at? What are we world-class at? What is it that we are going to build on? As organizations and individuals you need to be able to map your path and capability development moving forward.”
In order to transcend the boundaries and promote innovation, media brands are learning “to actually live what they are doing so that the messages that flow outside represent who they are”, said Dawson. This involves building the flow of communication and transparency internally in ways that mirror the external values and perceptions of a brand.
6. Foster bold and agile leadership to create your own future
Even as user participation in media continues to flourish, Dawson reminded the Schibsted audience that strong leadership remains crucial, because the future of media “is not a spectator sport”. As the Law of Requisite Variety makes clear, only those organizations that are as flexible as their environment will have the power to be able to create the future.
Therefore, leaders’ ability to put a bold vision into action, to push out the boundaries and set new standards for media will be crucial to success in the industry going forward. This is especially important because, at its core, the future of media “is an experiment”, Dawson believes.
“There is no roadmap to be able to say, this is exactly where the future of media is going. You need to create that. For your individual organization, it is going to be a different answer.”