Not That Special: The Hollywood Version

A few weeks ago, Wellesley High teacher David McCullough gave a much-discussed commencement speech that went viral. McCullough didn’t say anything earth-shattering, but did remind the newly minted Mass.-based Class of 2012 that in our culture, kids begin to believe in their coddling-manufactured greatness, that they can’t lose at anything, and are meant to be stars. All of them.

So, in that vein, here’s a little missive for the incoming class of video content providers:

Content platforms trying to become big Hollywood players are Not That Special.

Companies specializing in content platforms do not all have to be content producers. Sure, the lure of being a big-time Hollywood player is strong (Isn’t being a player that can get into every L.A. restaurant the most special of all?), but sometimes a content distributor is meant to be a content distributor and can excel at the highest level in that form, as a level playing field for others’ content. What’s really driving Amazon’s entrance into the production business? Didn’t anyone pay attention to what happened when AOL bought Time-Warner?



Treating your customers as Not That Special will cost you.

Did Netflix ever recover from its let’s-make-our-core DVD-business-harder-to-access move? Or, even worse, the Netflix DVD copy of the Warner Bros. film “Inception” has 15 minutes of unavoidable previews. 15 minutes! It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a widespread customer-satisfaction issue and catches up with Netflix.


Treating IPO company executives as All Too Special will cost you.

Case in point, the IPO for Facebook. Does anyone really think that giving a company a cash infusion with no shareholder rights to hold its executives accountable is a good idea? As egos inflate, this will happen more and more. I suspect it has a lot to do with how Steve Jobs, who did think he was All too Special (read Walter Isaacson’s wonderful biography) was kicked out of Apple in its early years. But, that typical deal also allowed for him to come back when the company faltered, and ultimately made Apple an even better company.

Creating shows to appeal to what you think is a dumb, Attention-Deficit-Disorder audience is Not That Special.

For this one, let’s quote McCullough himself: “Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you'll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

In other words, maybe you’re Not That Special -- but your content, commitment to your core business, and customer service should always be That Special.

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