One of the perks of my job as Academic Director for a number of programs is that I have the chance to meet with and interview interesting people who also take questions from the participants in our programs. I was in New York for the Advanced Management Program in Media and Entertainment and another program we do on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union and met two amazing individuals with two very different, but equally compelling, ideas about where the media business is going.
The new New York Times
Michael Golden is currently the Vice Chairman of the New York Times and spent his entire career with “the paper”. At one time he was, for example, the publisher of the International Herald Tribune.
The New York Times has gone through an incredible transition over the last few years adapting, what I call, an “All In” digital strategy. Golden says they still refer to the enterprise as “the paper” although the printed versions are only a part of the offering which is available on virtually any device in a a wide variety of formats.
What struck me most was the very clear and compelling vision about what the New York Times is and what it is not. The Times is offering deep and contextualized news for people who really want to not only know what is going on but also want to understand the context. To do this in the current media landscape has required that they essentially re-invent the way the 166 year old organization operates and Golden was very clear that the process is still underway.
What the times is not doing is promoting fake news, silly stories, and bad unscrupulous advertisements. Their digital content is available largely via subscription and over 3 million people are subscribing in one way or another to their digital offerings.
So far, the business model seems to be working and the Times offers a safe and smart haven in the noise and the clutter of the web. As an example of the new reach, my two twenty something daughters, removed facebook and instagram from their phones and instead get the daily briefing from the New York Times!
The other person I had the chance to meet is Ariana Huffington who has been a journalist, entrepreneur, author of 15 books, and even a candidate for public office during her amazing career.
Ms. Huffington’s new project is Thrive Global, which is a media entity (webazine?) which is dedicated to making the world a better place by encouraging us all to focus on what is most important.
The content of the project is largely influenced by Ms. Huffington’s book, Thrive, which outlines the four key aspects she believes we all need to focus on. These are, by the way, wellness, wisdom, wonder, and giving. For Ms. Huffington, we simply do not sleep enough and have become way to addicted to our digital devices to have the time to appreciate the wonder of the world and find joy in giving time and energy to others.
Besides the high minded purpose of the project, what is striking is the business model which includes corporate sponsorship, events, and even an ecommerce platform which sells a collection of products associated with health, wellness and the themes of the book.
There is, for example, a small charging station for smart phones which look like a small bed so that people can learn to Not sleep with the devices and actually read a real book in bed!
The Future of Media
What both of these very different people spoke about was that the media business is and will be about telling stories and then figuring out the way to not only distribute those stories to people but also get paid for doing it.