Friday, September 25, 2009

Four myths of media

According to "The Moguls' New Clothes" in the October edition of The Atlantic, the four are:
  • Growth is good.
  • Globalzation is good
  • Content is king
  • The cult of convergence
In an excerpt from their book "The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies," Jonathan Knee, Bruce Greenwald and Ava Seave argue that:
  • Most of the growth appears to have come from mergers and acquisitions done at prices that make their financial success unlikely.
  • The problem with going global is that it actually increases your competition because fixed costs are easier to justify relative to the possible overall gains. The global strategy also comes as consumers are turning inward for their information
  • Content isn't king because those who create it, not those who sell it, get most of the benefits. "Put simply, the core of any competitive advantage more often than not drives from the manner of aggregation, rather than the creation of content. It is no coincidence that Google ... is an aggregator, not a content company.
  • Convergence ultimately comes down to breaking down barriers and "[w]henever someone suggests that breaking down barriers to entry is good news, hold tight to your wallet."
Their conclusion? The way to make money in the media business these days is to, essentially, tend to your knitting. In other words, the money comes from running largely mature businesses efficiently.

There's another way to put that: Cut costs ruthlessly and don't invest in "a clearly dissipating franchise." Welcome to the first decade of the new (media) century.

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