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Hey, Traditional Media! Buck Up!

It's time for people inside traditional media to stop badmouthing their own businesses.

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You know what I'm sick of? People trashing their own businesses. You can't go out of doors these days without bumping into somebody lying on a grate moaning about how whatever it is they do is doomed.

Talk to anybody in the magazine business. You think they'll tell you, "Hey, things are bleak right now but when the economy turns magazines are the greatest way for advertisers to reach targeted audiences"? No, they're much more likely to tell you that the best days are come and gone and that the entire sector is going to melt away in the face of digital technology that has yet to turn even 10% of the revenue the core business still does because people get it mostly for free.

People in the television business are a little more upbeat because they're used to people saying their medium is dead. It's been dead since the mid-1950s, you know, when it was going to be replaced by one toy or another. But still you find people talking about the imminent demise of their own business model. True, most of them aren't really doing very well at what they're supposed to be doing. But there they are, scratching and moaning about death, dying and the rise of everything that has yet to make a nickel for them.

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Maybe the worst are the book publishing people. Wherever they gather with their bottomless glasses of impudent Cabernet, they talk about the death of books, and yeah, how the great days are over, and blah blah blah. Their job is to sell books! Instead, they're in the forefront of the army of gloom and doomsayers talking about how the heart and soul of their business -- the book, which has been around since Gutenberg -- is kaput. What's going to take its place? Words on a screen. When? They don't know. But they do know one thing. The medium they love, the medium by which they make their living, is dead.

Phooey, I say! Phooey!

Our mental space is filled with people who want to see things dead. I don't know why they feel that way, but they're certainly verbose about it. Things that are dead, have been dead and are soon to be dead, all pretty much at the same time, include:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Advertising
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Theatrical motion pictures
  • Any form of paid content

Have I left anything out?

Businesses die when people have no more ideas on what to do with them, or when something superior in quality and economic potential surfaces. Sure, stuff changes. And there will be losers. But to be the harbingers of doom about your own business? Aren't there plenty of others around to do that job? Shouldn't you be up there defending what you do? People are making business decisions based on what you say, you fools! And at this time? With the economy still basically in the tank? Is this the moment you want people thinking you're about the breathe your last?

You guys are like depressed teenagers sitting around moping because one day you're going to be dead. I had friends like that in college. They wore black and wrote a lot of poetry and they were boring then, too.

If I ran the world, which I do not, I would assemble all the people in all these industries -- and any other that keeps spreading rumors of its own demise -- and find out which of them are still excited about the business they are in, who feel there is still life in what they do. I would collect all the nice people who have 100 reasons why they're doomed... and fire every single one of them. I would then replace them with naive, hopeful young people who couldn't be more thrilled to be publishing magazines and newspapers, producing television programs and publishing books.

Of course, I would also assemble a nice, slightly crazy cadre of gunslingers to develop the digital realm. By 2020, that stuff could possibly be producing 15% of the bottom line. You certainly don't want to ignore that kind of incremental action.

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