Letter from the Editor

When MEDIA made the permanent shift to guest editors more than a year ago, I made a mental list of people whose point-of-view I'd like to turn this magazine over to. One of them was Michael J. Wolf, the influential media-industry-management consultant and former chief of MTV Networks, whom I've known for much of my career covering media. Wolf, who pretty much invented the concept of an entertainment and media-industry practice at Booz Allen and then at McKinsey and now at his own firm, Activate, has helped shaped the industry for more than 20 years, as one of the most trusted advisors of some of the most powerful people in media - from Ted Turner to Rupert Murdoch to Brian Roberts. So who better to talk about the subjects of change and transformation in the media industry than the man, who more than any other, has helped manage those changes?

But it wasn't until a few months ago, when Wolf began telling me about his new manifesto and approach to managing change during a breakfast at - where else -Michael's, that I realized he should take the helm of this very issue. The manifesto he and his Activate partner Anil Dash came up with was called, "Hacking the Org," and when he described it to me, it made perfect sense for guest-editing this magazine, because when we turn the issue over to a guest editor, we are fundamentally looking for someone to hack our organization - or at least an issue of our magazine - by turning its perspective over to an outsider and infusing their thinking and sensibility into what we publish.

When I look back at the guest editors we've had - Bob Guccione Jr., Alex Bogusky, Dale Herigstad, David Skokna, Dr. Carl Marci - I can tell you, it's not always been an easy process. It's not easy for our professional staff of editors to let go of the process. And it's not always easy for the industry pros to think like editors. But hopefully, somewhere between those two extremes, some inspired thinking, points-of-view and writing have come across. From that process we've discovered what happens when you bring new perspectives - the perspective of a great consumer-magazine editor, a great creative director, media designer, Web designer or neuroscientist - to bear on the subjects and themes we're all constantly scrambling to unravel, and the constant change that makes them a moving, unanswerable target, at best.

Actually, it was during a roundtable discussion organized by our first guest editor, Guccione Jr., that I realized just how smart and visionary Wolf truly is, because he was saying some of the smartest things in the room. More importantly, he was asking some of the smartest questions. Better ones, for the most part, than I was asking as a moderator. So that's probably when I really started thinking that Wolf should guest edit this magazine. I hope you'll agree, because we're taking part of our cue from Wolf's manifesto, which is that, "Media companies will create more value from building, rather than acquiring, emerging digital businesses. 'Hacking' - creating a virtual start-up outside the organization."

Best of all, we discovered how much Wolf actually values the role of magazines as a unique story-telling platform. You can see his comments on that later in this issue, but for now, I'd like to leave you with an insight he provided during our September 2008 roundtable: "Magazines - especially large, consumer magazines - are likely to persist because they're not just about the physical format. They're like drugs unto themselves. I mean Oprah's magazine or Vogue, or a lot of things that women read, just don't port over well to a screen," Wolf said, which, in retrospect, could have been said today, whether you are reading this particular magazine in print, or not.

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