Monday, May 23, 2011

Media Culture, part deux - Filloux's take

It must be media culture day on the blogging calendar, and I missed it.

Earlier, I noted with some minor skepticism INMA's discovery that news/media organization culture is probably more important than trying to bolt on a strategy or, worse, trying to dictate a culture from the top.

In another aspect of this multifaceted gem of an issue, Frederic Filloux, in his Monday Note, does a good job of laying out why media and tech have such trouble just getting along. 

(I'm a little snarkier than he - I think a lot of it is the studied disdain, or at least suspicion, that media - and especially journalists - have projected for anyone who seems "smart." It's the old street wise, fedora-wearing idealized image of the "Journalist" outsmarting the more schooled - if not necessarily erudite - business and political classes.)

Filloux (whose post grows out of his presentation at the INMA World Congress - so not so coincidental after all) has some observations to chew on from those on both sides of the aisle:

“You guys, are geared to compete rather than collaborate. You’re not getting that collaboration is the new name for the game”. “Even among yourselves, you are unable to cooperate on key industrial issues, shooting yourselves in the foot as a result”. “Your internal organizations are still plagued by a culture of silos. The winners will be the ones  who break silos”.

Tech executives also underline they see media companies as co-managed with unions – the consequence being a wage system that discourages rewarding valuable individuals. Media companies are also viewed as having a tech-averse culture. “Media don’t understand that their business has become engineering-intensive. Their investment in technology is grossly insufficient”.

Symmetrically, I collected adjectives summing up media people’s perception of the tech world. “Arrogant, condescending”: true, old media people always have the feeling of being looked down upon by the guys in chinos. “Nerdy, left-brained”: well, it goes along with the flip-flops and the hoodie… “Wealthy”, (I’ll come to that later). “Alien to the notion of value for content”: also true; and that might be the most difficult obstacle to a reconciliation. ...

The only identical critic, evenly spread on both sides, concerns bureaucracy: medias point at intricate technostructures staffed with legions of people working on the same subject; tech people mock news media needing six weeks to sign the innocuous non-disclosure agreement covering a routine project.

That sounds like a prescription for Kumbaya, eh?

Yet, as Filloux notes, tech companies need media. Despite all the predictions that a big tech company could buy a media company or two and be done with it, it largely has not happened - because the cultures are different, and producing software and hardware is not the same vein of creativity as producing a hit publication or show.

Likewise, as he observes: Medias have a lot to learn from tech companies. The way they conduct projects, their relentless drive for innovation, their bold imagination, coupled with a systematic and agile “Test & Learn” approach…  For the news industry, drawing inspiration from such a culture is a matter o[f] survival.

Filloux argues for "rapprochement" between the two. Perhaps we should look for detente first. After all, the first, hesitant cross-cultural exchanges eventually became the things that helped thaw the Cold War.

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