The media circus

A coalition of Danish media companies are out with an open letter trying to yet again put pressure on Danish parliament to regulate Big Tech.

The rationale seems to be that the timing couldn’t be better; the role of Big Tech – especially social media – in recent US events these last few weeks have highlighted that we do indeed have a problem, we need to pay attention to and figure out to do with.

But does it really relate to Danish media subsidy policy? Now that’s a different discussion. So let’s try to break that discussion down a bit.

The first argument, media companies make, is that tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter offers publicity to all kinds of fringe arguments. While that is undoubtedly true, let’s not forget that quite a lot of the content that gets shared actually come from media who have made it part of their core strategy to cater to the clickbait SoMe-mob, if we can call it that.

Media companies are not entirely without a responsibility of their own here, IMHO. It would be nice of them to at least own up to some of it.

Now, a lot of the questionable content comes from alternative news sources whose whole business model is built around creating a stir from fake news and draw attention to themselves. Trying to force Big Tech to compensate legacy media for content will (a) not deter these one bit and (b) probably also mean these alternative sources would have to be compensated.

Unless of course you think, legislation should be skewed towards catering for very special interests. But I digress.

You could in fact argue that some of the arguments being put forward by legacy media sounds an awful lot like how a oligopoly would find it useful to try and divide and conquer the market between them to suit their own purposes however noble or not those might seem to be.

As a follow-up from that let’s just for a second remember that what the media companies are essentially complaining about – near monopoly power with a couple of industry players – is what they essentially had themselves with their printing presses back in the good ol’ pre-internet days.

Those were the days.

So let’s just be clear what this is really about then:

It is about trying to ensure that more subsidies goes from someone with the ability to make money (or print their own, aka the government) to someone with a dwindling ability to make money themselves.

The song is an old one: Big Tech has disrupted the advertising market, and unless someone or something compensates us for the loss we have accrued due to the changing times, new technologies, more efficient opportunities for advertisers etcetera, we could be going away soon. So please: Send more money.

The problem is real. No doubt about it. Many annual reports no matter which company in which market will tell you the same.

But the question is whether it’s the right time to use an attempt at sedition in the US to once again beat the old, limp pony of a failed business model that should be fully compensated for by everyone else but the ones who have so far struggled to find a viable alternative?

Personally I would prefer if the energy was spent entirely (and yes, I know a lot of energy is going into this space) of finding a way to once again be the best option for advertisers, when they need to market their products and services.

Only real product and value innovation can help bring about that change.

Having said that I fully assume media companies to continue their efforts to turn back time to when they were in the very position they now complain Big Tech is in.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The negative value proposition

Is creating value as a startup with something new always inherently positive for everybody concerned?

Maybe not.

What if part of the value creation you offer is to help take away the uncomfortable pain of someone having to confront someone else with a problem, the first one really just want to be rid off? Is that a positive for everyone concerned?

Case in point:

If a healthtech startup as part of it’s value proposition offers doctors the ability to spend less time with patients, is that a net positive for all? Why it may help drive down cost for the health sector as such, wouldn’t it be a loss of value instead to a lot of the patients affected by being less able to actually meet an expert?

I am not saying here that it’s wrong, and you shouldn’t try to deliver that kind of value. I am just suggesting that what you may offer as a positive value to one set of stakeholders might be seen as the opposite to another. And you need to be aware of that and own up to the fact that that is what you (also) do.

Especially so if you’re dealing with vulnerable people.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Go challenge success

Often when we think about which new projects to pursue, we have a tendency to stay away from the ones, where there are already some really dominant players. Because we have a feeling that we will ultimately come up short.

But is that always the case?

What happens when someone you know from a successful company tells you that pursuing your idea or project within his space of operation is a futile endeavour? Should you just roll over and die without even trying?

Or should you – on the contrary – feel validated in your perception that you could really be on to something?

Because at the end of the day why does your friend with insights want you to stop?

Yes, it could be because the idea is really stupid, and of course you should always do your own due diligence on it.

But it could also be because he’s nervous that you could be onto something that is going to potentially upset the status quo and come back to haunt him and his company.

After all – as Mike Shapulski puts it here – the best project is the one that threatens success.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Idea or execution?

Rocket Internet, the famous German copycats of popular digital services, is delisting from the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

This has prompted some to claim that their time is up, and that their model of copying others successful ideas was never a viable one to begin with.

But that’s totally not true. Zalando alone is amble proof.

Instead what we could use this opportunity to discuss is what’s more valuable: Idea or execution? And by extension: What is the hardest one to get right?

If we look at it from that perspective there is very little doubt in my mind that Rocket Internet is a powerhouse when it comes to execution. What they may lack in brilliant, novel ideas, they more than make up for in razor sharp relentless execution.

And what makes the difference at the end of the day is execution; what actually gets out there and it’s ability to generate value for all parties concerned.

This doesn’t mean that you should only focus on being stellar at execution. Because what at the end of the day move us forward as society is brilliant novel ideas executed really well.

So it’s really not a question about idea or execution. It’s a question about idea AND execution. And realizing that it takes just as much (often actually more) to execute really, really well than it takes to come up with that spark of brilliance to begin with.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Towards infinity

There are a lot of things that aren’t exactly rocket science. But space-analogies are nonetheless still pretty powerful in terms of exemplifying things and efforts that may seem out of this world.

Back when I was a kid, my biggest dream was to one day to get the opportunity to launch a Saturn V-rocket. You know; hit that big button (which I imagine it must be) and just observe this mightiest of machines mankind has ever built rise gracefully towards the infinite space.

Anyways.

What makes space-analogies so relevant in regards to venturing into the innovation unknown is what it says about those, who don’t do it.

After all, one thing is to be an ‘astronaut’ and put yourself out there where no one or only few have gone before. On the flipside of that is the ‘know it all’ type, who prefers to stay firmly on the surface of the Earth, conscious of all the risk associated with moving – and thus ending up not moving at all.

Going for a peek in ‘outer space’ seems somewhat more interesting, no?

Yes, there is an abundance of risk associated with venturing out in the unknown, and yes, there are numerous times when you can and will question, why you got on top of that rocket to begin with. But that doesn’t make it wrong. That just makes you normal – despite your ambition to challenge ‘gravity’.

When you look at it that way, going above and beyond where you have gone before suddenly looks an even more interesting prospect.

PS: If you want to play around with launching a Saturn V-rocket from inside of the Apollo command module, you can play around with a cool online demo here.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The WFH problem

The other day at work we were discussing a whole range of potential themes to dig more into, as the fall approaches, and we’re taking on exploring new, interesting ideas.

One of the themes, we of course quickly came to discuss is “Work From Home” (WFH) as a general trend. I don’t think I need to explain why:

WFH has become a necessity due to Covid-19, and we’re already seeing how different sectors are catching on. As an example real estate agents in Denmark has already started touting the availability of “the home office” as a cool feature of listed properties.

So a lot of things are being done, and people are looking for business opportunities in this New Normal. As they should.

However, I can’t escape the feeling that we have got this the wrong way – at least from a stand point of maintaining our ability to be innovative and creative about things (something fx the Danes have always prided themselves in).

What do I mean?

An awful lot of ‘success stories’ on WFH that I hear have to do with jobs, where you can tick boxes, i.e. task or to do-lists. People find it a breeze to be able to sit at home with little or no distractions and just get stuff done.

I get it.

But what we don’t hear so much about are the proactive, creative processes. Those that are necessary for innovation and creativity to happen and for those task lists to be generated in the first place.

Why?

Because they are infinitely harder to do remote. They crave for people coming together and finding new ways of doing things; of being in the moment, be open and just make a collective go at it.

“But there are a lot of people doing workshops remotely and being quite efficient about it”, you might argue.

Perhaps.

But still: Every article I see about how to fx do brainstorms remotely are ultimately guides into turning the creative process into a…manageable to do-list. And then we’re right back where we started.

I understand a lot of people will say and feel they have good experiences being efficient about creative processes and put real innovation on a formula. I just beg to differ.

I think it’s next to impossible for 99 out of 100 people to remotely ‘plan’ for creative breakthroughs that ultimately end up unlocking entirely new and valuable revenue streams.

I think it takes getting together, deploying all your human senses, be in the moment, let your mind wander, pick up on the little signals in the room etc.

Anyway, that’s just me and how I feel.

But what I am certain off is that we are looking at WFH through the wrong lens; that we’re (again) confusing short term results for long term sustainability.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

New life to dead markets

Dead Sea Markets.

A fascinating term. A term that suggests a market that has pretty much killed every entity in it (due to various reasons) but could still serve as a fertile ground for new entries and perhaps entire ecosystems.

Why is it so fascinating? Because it essentially provides a ‘firehose’ option. An option where if you can come up with the right thing, the right solution, customers will already be flocking looking to try and perhaps even buy. You don’t have to build and convince people there is a market, which is a huge advantage.

And yet, we often overlook these opportunities. We tend to find these industries and verticals slightly ‘tired’ and even ‘boring’, because it seems like every bit of oxygen has been sucked out of it.

And it may have been – if we look at the incumbents already trying to play in the industry.

But isn’t that exactly what we are looking for; a tired, boring incumbent underserving or even sunsetting a market, we could have the opportunity to serve way better?

My point here?

Don’t only look for highly profitable markets looking for opportunities to disrupt them. Look also for the ones that seems like they are dead, without air or any kind of energy.

Ask yourself this: Is it so because there really isn’t anything there at all? Or is it just because the ones already there are not really there?

Often you will find it’s the latter. Which should be your signal to consider an entry. Because chances are nobody else is having the same idea. Or just feels it is too hard (which, full discretion, it may indeed turn out to be).

And because you might be able to turn a Dead Sea into a Blue Ocean.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Media should take some cues from MedTech

The other day I was asked by Lars K. Jensen to contribute 3 tips on digital development as it relates to media to his weekly newsletter, ‘Digital Ugerevy’.

Naturally, I obliged and delivered as I try to do every time a good friend of mine asks for a piece of advice or some input. And I consider Lars to be a fellow crusader through many years in trying to breathe some new life into a super challenged industry. So I was happy and eager to help

But it also got me thinking about how different the media industry is from what I am doing today. And why it made a ton of sense to leave it for someone like me.

While there are many great things to say about the media industry, it is super hard to challenge and affect. Not because people in it have figured things out, but because they think they have figured it out – and are thus very resistant to real change.

Why? Because the media industry is an industry that puts too much weight on the ego and – more importantly – ego-driven decisions.

I guess it comes with the inherent opportunities for public exposure it offers those of its tribe that puts themselves forward and out there. It’s human, I know, but still…

In the media industry there is no real price for trying to solve a problem as seen from the end user or reader. You will likely die trying instead. Because media people just know better; they are always the smartest people in the room – or so they think.

Contrast that with MedTech which is where I am currently busy trying to build a new startup ground up:

Here there is every price for trying to solve a problem for someone who is experiencing pain, agony or whatever it might be that ails them.

Here there are no-one being smarter about how to solve problems, because those trying to do it are most often deeply invested into research where they actually value figuring things out and secure the validity of what they try to bring to market before they do it. Everything else is a ‘No go’.

Here there are no-one winning an argument with “…but we usually do it this way”, because it is essentially the same thing as saying that the underlying problem will persist, and what we’re trying to do is inherently futile – which again would lead research for better solutions absolutely nowhere.

Here there is preciously little gloating. There are few if any waiting and hoping for others to fail as we’re all on the same mission to try and improve things.

Here it truly matters what you do. It is not a game.

Here there are visions of what might be if we succeed instead of longing for the past.

And I could go on.

Honestly: Is there any reason not to say “So long, media” and refocus your energy from something futile to something deeply meaningful?

I think not.

But I am still glad to try to help out and kick the can when great people such as Lars comes calling.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)