Dying to work for a company (updated)
Thursday, December 2nd, 2004
Writing as a frustrated journalist, Mark Glaser outlines “The Media Company I Want to Work For– Not Someday, But Now.”
I don’t get it. Why the urge to “work for” “a media company?”
[I woke up at 3AM thinking about this and other fun stuff, so have updated this with some fresh thoughts.]
Sure, I love newspapers and magazines. I spent a decade working for them and read ’em every night before bed. They are filled with wonderful, brilliant people. They do amazing things.
But corporate publishers are born and bred to do certain things, most of all make money for their shareholders.
Unlike people, who can pursue lots of ends at once entertain conflicting impulses, publicly traded businesses (and those that aspire to be) are simple machines, are wired to one dimension of stimuli — profit and loss. Over the last four-hundred years corporations evolved a range of mechanisms and strategies for doing this. Chains of management, lines of reporting, memos, meetings, conference calls, quarterly reviews: these are the sinew and nerve cells of all corporations.
And the multi-billion dollar pension funds and mutual funds who determine share prices of corporate publishers care about Pulitzer prizes only insofar as a Pulitzer prize or three increases the value of their shares. Afterall, the investor’s first responsibility to their own investors is to make money. A pension fund manager can’t say to 76 year old Uncle, who has entrusted his life savings with the manager, “sorry, you won’t be able to afford to fly to to pay the heating bill this January because we invested in the wrong publisher. But cheer up! The good news is one of the publisher’s newspapers won a Pulitzer prize!”
So it is wrong-headed to ask corporate publishers, as Mark does:
I am tired of waiting for media companies to change and figure out the way that the business is shifting right beneath their short-sighted eyes. When are they going to understand that their readers are more important than their stockholders? When are they going to understand their readers at all? When are they going to “get” the Internet, true interactivity, citizen journalism, blogging and the communities of thought that are rising up?
Corporate publishers can’t think or act outside the box, BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BOX.
But don’t despair. This is a good thing. Who needs overhead and overhang and overlords? Isn’t disaggregation — not just of content but of bodies — the trend?
The many to many blogosphere is far more powerful than any one-to-many top-down distribution mechanisms schemed up by corporate media. Blog swarms are smarter than any editorial board. Blogging tools are cheaper than a six-pack of beer. Bandwidth is sold at pennies per supertanker. And advertisers are waking up to the fact that it’s more fun to pay writers directly rather than shareholders & publishers & flunkies & flunkies of flunkies, aka writers.
Isn’t the playing field leveling now… or even tilting toward the individual?