Recently, I came across a fascinating study that I believe is very revealing of the thought process of media executives.
Published in January, 2011 by the Jordan Edmiston Group, the study focused on C-level executives across the media, information, marketing services and technology sectors and was “created to capture senior media executives’ outlook on growth opportunities and key challenges that face the industry in the months and years ahead.”
Seeing how I spend a great deal of time on this blog complaining about the blindly arrogant and often hopelessly illogical decisions made by these same executives, I was gratified to find everything I’ve been saying summed up neatly in just two charts:
1. Media Executives Still Believe That Their Problems will Fix Themselves
1. Organic growth (82%)
2. Launching new products/services (76%)
3. Expansion of market share within existing markets (70%).
It seems to me that two of the top three answers equate to “don't do much of anything and wait for things to get better”.
Gary Pruitt, CEO of McClatchy and one time hero of mine (he used to call his papers “athletic” because they were lean but powerful – I loved that), recently demonstrated this wait-and-see mindset when he stated in a conference call that he hoped the newspaper industry would soon “stabilize”. In other words, there’s nothing we can do but wait.
(Not that they do much better when they decide to launch new products and services as illustrated by Tribune’s baffling plans to enter the tablet hardware business, but that’s another blog post.)
2. Media Executives Still Don’t Know That They Are a Big Part of the Problem
1. Lack of talent in emerging areas (technology, Internet, etc.) (54%)
2. Company structure slows growth/incompatible with path to growth (40%)
3. Conflicting internal agendas. (34%)
Interestingly, only 13% of those same respondents cited lack of talent in senior management as a barrier to growth.
Let’s see, our staff isn’t qualified, our company structure doesn’t support growth and everyone is off running with their own agendas, but this has nothing to do with the quality of our senior management?
It’s not us, it’s them.
We saw this attitude play out last month with Rupert Murdoch’s assertion that he’s not responsible for the hacking scandal at News International, but rather he was “let down” by those below him.
Where are the great media leaders? I know of two. And I do know others are trying.
Being a great leader requires doing things no one else wants to do.
It may mean re-structuring for a new reality as Clark Gilbert did at the Deseret News when he separated the print and digital parts of his business.
It may mean putting the digital talent in positions of power as John Paton did when he put the digital people in charge and fired those who could not adapt.
These were not popular decisions. They were not easy decisions. They were gut wrenching decisions.
But both companies are now launching into their digital futures.