Keynote: Creating the Future of Media – #SchibstedNEXT Oslo, Norway

Below is the video of Ross Dawson’s keynote on Creating the Future of Media at #SchibstedNEXT in Oslo, Norway.

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Full Transcription:

Ross Dawson:

If we look at the future there’s two ways to think about it. One is to say, “Well, what is it that’s going to happen,” and try to work out the directions of the future. But the other way to think about the future which is far more relevant is to create the future, to be able to make it, what we want, to envision what is possible, to be able to shape the world, to be able to be moving forward. If we look at all of human history until the very early days, thousands of years ago, coming to today in 2016, there’s many issues that are fundamentally important today in shaping our future, in terms of our relationship to technology, in terms of politics and geopolitics and change and tensions that we have. But I believe that creating the future of media is one of the most important, to be able to shape our future, because that shapes as Isabelle was saying who we are and what we are today.

We are media animals. That is what a human is, is that we look for and we seek messages, information. We’ve discovered just over the last 10 years through social networks quite how deeply we want media, how we look more and more, more and more of our attention is taken. We are deeply media animals, and so we must create a future of media which understands that, which recognises that.

Six years ago now I quite notoriously created a newspaper Extinction Timeline which looked at in each country when newspapers, news on paper would cease to exist. You can see them. In fact, Norway is very high on the list. I suggested 2020 was the year now. People have been asking me for an update on this, and I think one of the lessons I’ve learned over the last year it, it hasn’t happening quite as fast as that, though I think it’s not that long until news on paper starts to be transcended by other forms. But for many of those other countries further out we are seeing that in many developed countries, India, China, and South America and so on, we’re seeing that in fact news on paper has a shorter and shorter lifestyle.

But that’s not important. That’s not the issue. News on paper is just one way in which we have had our news and media in the past. If we’re looking to the future, we are … You need to look at the future of news, where is that, where is that going, and in respective, yes, there might be some paper, there’ll be more and more digital forms, there’ll be more and more other ways in which we’ll take on our news, but we only need to think about is looking beyond the boundaries. James Carr says that, “Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries,” and that is what we must do in media, is go beyond those boundaries of for example paper and digital and broadcast and so on, to be able to think, “Well, how is it that we can play with the boundaries to be able to shape something beyond that,” looking at news, looking at entertainment, looking at education which is a fundamentally important part of this as well, shaping the future of news moving force.

What I want to do quickly this morning is look, first of all, to a vision, because if we want to create the future, we want to know where it is we are going, what does that look like so that we know whether we’re on the right path, to be able to look at how value is created in that world, look at the nature of intelligence, human intelligence and machine intelligence, look at platforms as we’ve already heard this morning, a fundamentally important part of where media is going, look at just a few of the many opportunities for media, and finally the leadership that are required to be able to create the future of media.

If we begin by looking at the vision, what that we might have moving forward, there’s many elements of that. Part of it as we’ve seen that humans, we have an insatiable desire for media. Already we’re starting to see that if you add up all of the media we consume, it takes all of our waking hours because we are multi channelling, we’re using our phones at the same time, the televisions, with something on paper in our lap, we have media coming in at all times and our human desire for media is insatiable. But at the same time we are seeing this rise of what we can think of this media economy.

Arguably the entire economy is becoming based on media, the creation of messages, the flow of messages and where they are going. This is very obvious if you’re looking for example at a financial institution that … Money is information. What they work on is information. It is media. It is news. It is around the changes and the flows and what’s happening. But every organisation, an oil and gas company is in fact significantly a media organisation that creates information that sends that out. If we look at the capabilities we’re moved beyond mining and the agriculture to physical goods, and where all of the growth is happening as the economy doubles in size is largely from media and how we understand it. The capabilities that we have need to be able to build that.

If we look at again the vision of what we can create, the reality is we can begin to see, have our eyes to touch and see what is happening, everything, everywhere, all the time. Marshall McLuhan said the media is an extension of our senses. We can see everywhere where there is a mobile phone, everywhere on the planet. Everywhere where there is somewhere to listen, we can see that.

If we look at the vision, one of the most important parts is that we have a successful transition for the existing media organisations for today, for the news organisations, for the agencies, for companies which are increasingly brands which are media organisations in themselves need to understand how do we move from what we have been to what we have done, and that vision includes that we get to those successful transitions and … But the other key part of that is that we are creating ourselves, that vision of this.

In this video it shows some humans together with some robots. If you look carefully you can see which one are the humans and which ones are the robots. But there is an increasing challenge. We’re in fact the merging of technology and humanity. Technology is more and more capable, taking more and more who we are. If we look at that vision, we need to understand who it is we can be, who it is we want to be moving forward.

If we look at value and where that may be. We’re creating this newscape and looking at part of the value moving forward. This, if we look at the centre of this, the centre of value, the centre of the newscape or where it is moving forward, in terms of the interfaces how it is we touch, how it is we receive. This can be through paper. It can be through mobile phones. It can be through TV. There’s all of these different channels, the interfaces that we can see to be able to touch and receive the news which we are experiencing.

See, there’s eight key parts to how value is created in this post channel media world, absolutely in terms of timeliness, now it’s from when … Anything on paper is out of date and our appetite to have, to know what is the news on the minute is absolutely fundamental. Timely actionable use is fundamental part of value. It needs to be new. That’s not just finding the things which you’re going to investigate to be able to find new things, to be able to also create original perspectives, to bring things together in new ways, and there’s a fundamental part in that value.

Critically it’s around that insight, and that’s what journalism offers. It offers the context. It gives perspective. It enables to analyse, to be able to provide these ways in which we can understand things. Design is fundamental. This is something where we can have more and more interfaces, more and more ways of working with that. This is how tactile it is, how it is we can interact with. Design is becoming a fundamental part. It’s not just the content itself, but how does it engage. Reputation. A powerful brand, Aftenposten for example, that gives you a reputation, but there are still new brands which are gaining reputation. But this creates, makes it more efficient to be able to take information.

Community is a fundamental part of value, being able to connect people, to find what it is that’s common between them, to be able to create media which is relevant to all of those people, and to be able to filter that so that what is relevant to you, to the individual, can be created across not just a single news or media organisation, but across many news and media organisations, and making that relevant to the individual, relevant to the organisations, to the decisions they need to make. More and more. This is actually just a screenshot from a website showing just some of the ways in which we can start to interface with interaction with these kinds of things in new ways.

I believe in the last 20 years one of the most important things is how technology has enabled our creativity. This video was created by a woman at a film studio and with a little help from her friends, and she won the Academy Award for student work. This is where incredibly, the incredible power of what we can do as individuals enabled by a little technology, in terms of music, in terms of design, in terms of creating, in terms of images where the individual now is a capable to do that. Music production can be done by anybody anywhere in the same level professionally. We are enabling this creativity of people around the world, meaning that if we are looking for the best media, we must together bring together the professionals who have the expertise and the depth and the context with the amateurs, with all of us, with the many that are enabled by technology to create possible things.

But in addition to this, we have more. The rise of technology is creating the automation of journalists, of journalism. In fact, of music creation, often of art creation. Seeing these capabilities where news stories often being written by what are called robot journalists. Where content is going, we have professionals, we have crowds, the many, and we have algorithms, and together they are creating this possibility. We need to experiment with the boundaries between this. What are the ways we can bring these together in new ways to be able to create value.

Intelligence is about human intelligence but is also around machine intelligence. One of the things which many people tell you is that as we are immersed in the media world, our brains are changing and some … Nicholas Carr for example in his book called The Shallows says that we, our brain, our thinking is becoming shallow because we are getting distracted at every moment. There is a case to make for that. But I certainly believe that while it is true that our brains are changing, we need to understand that there is the potential for us to take in more, to be able to think more, to be able to understand more. But when we serve media to people, we need to understand that our brains are different. When we grew up from when we had an iPhone when we were born to those of us who are older it becomes a very different world.

Now we have the insight to be able to see an individual and see not just their their age and their gender and their … But also their mood, what, how they are thinking, and so that we can use that to respond. Caroline in a moment will tell you a little more about this emotional engagement in media.

Machine learning which have heard about, so you know that a computer beat the chess grandmaster Go recently. This is a computer that is learning how to play the game Breakout, and the only instructions given is move this thing and get the highest score possible. What it does is learning over time. After a couple of hours it learns to be able to when it goes in a particular place where the dot is coming down, it can bounce it back. But in a couple of hours longer it’s able to then learn that it can actually manoeuvre to get that little dot going around to be able to go on the side and actually start to move around on the top. So without any instructions is able to use the data to be able to learn for itself. Now this is the power of machine learning, where if you give it sufficient data, and we have that data today, it’s able to learn what is relevant to the individual, what it is that turns us on, what it is that changes our mind, to be able to act, to be able to take things positively.

In all of this world platforms are absolutely fundamental. We had all this morning already quite a few conversations around Facebook and other platforms. We need to understand platforms in order to be able to drive, drive the future of media in a positive way because platforms are becoming central to the economy.

Now it’s worth understanding what a platform is. This is a fundamental shift in how we think about business. Old business, and business in the old days used to be able to create a product and service and it would sell it. Platforms are fundamentally different. What they do is they enable others to connect together producing and consumers to create value in new ways. You create an infrastructure, you create some rules that enable that to happen. Today we are seeing, this is … This creates these positive feedback loops where you move from more when you get more users, that creates more value for users and feeds back in this positive cycle. This creates more and more what we’ve seen absolutely in the media world. Not just on Facebook. We’ve seen media happening across Viber and Snapchat and the shift to chat platforms. But these are all platforms that connect people together and where media is having to play, because that’s where attention is going. Attention is going to platforms rather than the fragmentation of the single brands.

This just like very quickly go through some of these rules. You’ll be able to have access. I think Schibsted will send you out and also you can access my blog, are the details of this. But high level around the platform strategy, we need to set and think about what is our strategy for platforms. There’s two kinds. One is to be able to create your own platforms. As we referred that’s fundamentally important. If you want to be able to create the future of media, you have to recognise the platforms exist and also create your new platforms, as well as think about well how is it you play with existing platforms.

If you’re getting your own platform the first thing is to understand the key principles, to be able to position your platform effectively, to be able to look at what are the … who are the owners, how bounded is it, do you allow people in, what are the platforms for that, to be able to design it effectively, to be able to look at how is it that you create value for participants. That’s the fundamental aspect of a platform, is designing value for the participants in ways they can create that together. To be able to build your capabilities because the capabilities in traditional organisations are often not those for, required for platforms, so to be able to look at how is it that you manage the user experience, how is it that you facilitate the community, to be able to create that.

Finally, looking to be able to grow that. Of course, there are many failed platforms, but there are also many successful ones, and these need to be able to grow by feeding on themselves. The many fundamental things that we begin to understand, platforms are not new, but now we can understand how to be able to drive those moving forward. But for most of us, most of organisations, we won’t in fact be building our own platforms. That’s one of the things we need to consider. But we will be participating in other people’s platforms, such as Facebook, such as Twitter, such as Google app, such as Viber, WeChat, and Snapchat and all of these are the platforms. These are platforms we need to play with.

The first thing we need to do is analyse them. There’s many things we need to think about in terms of for example what are the different platforms, what are the differences between them, where do we think they’ll succeed, how will they play against each other, what are the potential pathways moving forward, and to actually engage in those, to say, “Yes, we can’t necessarily engage in every platform so we’ll select some. We will, you know, push ourselves in how to be able to get the best outcomes on those and to be able to promote those, promote our participation goes in the right way.”

But critically you are not just a subject of those. We can strengthen your position. Part of it is making sure that whatever you’re doing on platform you are gathering as much data as possible. You heard before around the potential for the people who are wearing smartwatches, you can actually use some of that data for yourselves and what you’re doing. To be able to find ways to use platforms to bring people into a direct relationship. New York Times and Wall Street Journal have found that a very successful strategy for engaging on Facebook.

But also to apply your influence. We just heard a moment ago from how Mr. Hansen from Aftenposten has actually changed Facebook’s position, and just in the last few days they have announced their policy has changed in how they use images. This is a fundamental way in which you say, “We are not just subjects. We can sitting in Oslo change the world, change the platform, change how things are doing,” and critically to collaborate with other peoples and be able to create that. But also saying that this is dynamic. It’s not just in a year from now we’ll have a different world of platforms, but in six months, in three months, in one month from now it will be a different landscape. We need be able to monitor that, to engage and pick up the signals, to be able to refine our strategies we are moving forward.

From all of this there’s an extraordinary array of opportunities in the media world. I do like to just point to a few of those. One of the most important ones is building on your existing capabilities. When you can start to see the shape of where the media world is going and saying, “These are our capabilities today and this is how we can build on those to take advantage of those,” so this again requires going beyond boundaries.

It’s traditional things. We are a news publisher, we are an ad agency, whatever it may be. To be able to say, “We have capabilities that are enormously relevant in the entire media economy going forward. This is how we will take advantage of that. This is how we’ll go beyond boundaries to play on the capabilities that we have.” Need to be able to absolutely play with new interfaces and new experiments and new experiences, so paper, black and white paper not as compelling as what we have now. For example, the New York Times creating a virtual reality immersive space called The Dispossessed, to look at stories of refugees, to bring that to life for people so you’re actually in there, you are living it. This is an essential part. These are experiments, but this is about how do we create this more compelling experience.

We also need to integrate the outside and the inside of organisations. This image shows a Klein bottle. This is the three-dimensional equivalent of a Mobius strip. The outside and the inside are the same. That’s I think an extraordinary relevant metaphor for today. If we look at organisations, how is it that we create an organisation where the internal communication, the internal media, the internal media is exactly mirroring what is happening outside, building the transparency, building the flow of messages so that, and there’s your capabilities as media organisations, as agencies, as participants in that are absolutely helping brands, not just to do content marketing and branded content and so on, but to actually live what they are doing so that the messages that flow outside represent who they are.

We absolutely have an extraordinary opportunity to tap a literal world of people who are extraordinary talented, who can participate in creating compelling ideas, compelling content, compelling engagement, compelling sharing, to be able to unleash that, enable that in others. Certainly there are massive opportunities to be able to create collaborative platforms. Piano Media in Slovakia brought together nine publishers in one nation to be able to create a platform where a single subscriber could access all of the content across those publishers. More and more we’re seeing there’s other opportunities. I’m doing something with Pandora and Spotify who are competitors, yet are collaborating to be able to go out and share with the world.

Platforms, yes, Facebook is competing with Twitter, but you and the people in the Norwegian market for example can absolutely collaborate to be able to create more opportunity, to create platforms where you can get that critical mass of value creating interactions between producers and consumers, getting the scale. Single players is far harder. The collaboration and the opportunities for collaboration in the Norwegian market are phenomenal.

Finally, if we look at leadership, because this does not happen by itself. If we want to create the future of media, that is not a spectator sport. That is something where you, working with others, need to be able to create that. If we look at the law of requisite variety, it tells us that if we are not as flexible as our environment, then we are simply subject to the winds of change. It is only if we are as flexible as our environment that we actually have the power to create the world, to be able to create the future, and that’s very challenging, giving how dynamic the world is, but that’s the issue which we need to do.

If we look at all of this it is an experiment. There is no road map to be able to say this is exactly where the future of media is going. You need to be able to create that. For your individual organisation it is going to be a different answer. One of the key issues is around the revenue models, how they’re shifting. You heard from Brian earlier and some of the potential directions around that, but you need to experiment. There is no rule book which applies to you exactly. You can learn from others, absolutely, but you need to be able to create your own guidebook.

If we look at The Lean Startup model, every startup entrepreneur will have read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and it describes this simple model. You come up with an idea. You put it into action. You test it, you learn from that, and you iterate new change and a result. Then making that as shorter and shorter as possible. Not just where you do a big experiment and a year later you decide whether it’s worked or not, but where in the space of a day you can test an idea, see how people respond with that, and actually develop that. This becomes a fundamental important capability of every organisation, the entire media ecosystem.

We look at what we need to do coming out of this, and I just point to six things that every participant should be doing. The first is you need to have a vision. If someone asks you, “What do you want to create in the future of media,” you should be able to have an answer, you need to be able to create your own vision which is distinctive for your organisations and able to communicate that because that’s part of the value of curating. Because the others won’t have that vision. If you can help provide that vision, that enables them, that provides a compelling direction, that allows you to collaborate. It is critical that you have this vision moving forward.

You need to be able to look at how it is you create and combine professionals, crowds, the many, and increasingly algorithms in creating an engaging compelling content. You need to be able to say what are our capabilities today, what are we great at, what are we distinctive at, what are we world class at, and what is it that we are going to build on, as organisations and individuals to be able to map your path and capability development moving forward.

Revenue is still highly uncertain, so we need to be able to experiment, and again, these are structured experiments. For every experiment you should know what you want to learn, and if when you learn that, you will learn to be able to design the next experiment. The reality is again there’s different models in terms of how it is you can gain revenue, how it is you can design that and moving forward. You have to find those answers for yourselves. You must have a platform strategy. That may be simply we’re going to work with Facebook for distribution, or in terms of things, but you need to be a clear strategy, why it is that you are using that, and it is dynamic so that you can adjust that platform strategy depending on the results moving forward.

And you need to be bold. Because staying in the same place in a changing world will not get you to where you want to go. You need to be able to push out the boundaries. I think what … I’m very excited to be in Norway, to be in Oslo, to be participating in something by Schibsted which it is pushing out the boundaries. I’ve been a judge on the International News Media Association Awards and seeing many wonderful submissions from Schibsted and others around the world and seeing some extraordinary things coming out of Norway, Norwegian market.

We just looked at the idea of the vision, where value is created, human and machine intelligence, platforms, some of the many opportunities moving forward, and finally the leadership that is required to be able to create the future of media. I think you will agree with me. This is a dawn of a new era in media, and I invite you to create a compelling future for media in Norway. Thank you.

Ross Dawson is also an expert at virtual keynotes and
virtual strategy facilitation