Commentary

The Fallout Of Technology Gains: Doing More With A Lot Less

Decades ago, business executives might have worried that automation would replace them, that a machine or computer could handle their skills or their business.

For some, that threat never completely surfaced. Yet we are still plagued with the vision of more machines coming our way.

Recently Walt Disney Co. said it was laying off some 175 people -- mostly technical staffers -- from its ABC TV unit so it could “stay ahead of the curve” due to “technological advances.”  For some, this may make sense: Local TV stations are old-school -- a slower-moving business looking at big transformation, thus the need for big ground-breaking changes. Three years ago, ABC News -- network news operations being another business under radical changes -- laid off hundreds of people.

Also, earlier this year, high-flying ESPN -- perhaps the strongest cable network and supposedly invulnerable to downward business market forces --- said it was getting rid of 400 workers. A year before that, Disney trimmed staff from its interactive media division.

Are layoffs these days always about new technology looking to replace actual people? We don’t know. But we do know that big TV concerns -- and businesses overall -- always want to do more with less. Tons of automated processes for TV have replaced manual work. For example, cloud-based technologies and digital uploads have eliminated much of the need to produce DVDs and other physical media.

And think about all those stories of ne- fangled “programmatic” media buying/selling operations. Under all the promise of efficiency and speed, what isn’t really mentioned -- in the headlines anyway -- is what programmatic means to media buying and selling staffers who negotiate on both sides of the trading desk. It means what you think -- eliminating jobs.

Business automation proponents, especially in the entertainment field, would say that eliminating positions means opening up opportunities in areas of new technologies and expertise that didn’t exist before. Twenty years ago, for example, there weren’t many -- if any - digital TV producers, webmasters and digital content aggregators.

Still, short-term transition can be messy. Falling off the entertainment business job train can be difficultwithout adequate severance.

In the end, machines aren’t perfect. Look what happened to  the Nasdaq stock exchange on Thursday, when a “software” glitch caused it to stop operating for three hours. Maybe Nasdaq needs some high profile, in-house TV programming to explain itself.

3 comments about "The Fallout Of Technology Gains: Doing More With A Lot Less".
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  1. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, August 23, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.

    By 2015 there will be one person with a full-time job - and he/she will be afraid to ask for a raise for fear of being fired.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 23, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.

    You may want to take this story to colleges and universities and all of those majors whose field will disappear before they graduate and schools making tons off of their tuition lax in changing courses.

  3. William Buckley from FarePlay, August 24, 2013 at 1:08 a.m.

    No surprises here. Tech is quickly becoming the new aggregator of concentrated wealth at the expense of others.

    If we aren't careful, music, film, literature, art and photography will all be computer generated. Oh sorry, I mean no humans necessary.

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