Apollo XIII Part 2

Suppose you were a journalist who had spent more than 10 years shouting: “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Let’s say you’d stridently predicted the decimation of newspapers, magazines, the record industry, broadcast TV, cable, the movie industry, terrestrial radio, satellite radio and even public radio (which has employed you for 30 years.) For good measure, suppose you’d also preached End of Days for the advertising industry, which you’ve been analyzing since 1982.


And as long as we’re supposing, suppose that more or less every apocalyptic consequence of digital revolution you’d be screaming bloody murder about had materialized more or less according to your grimmest prophecies. Congratulations! You were right! We are all in deep shit!

Here’s what I think would happen to you: You’d feel a bit self-righteous, especially since you’d spent a decade being dismissed as a hysteric, a heretic or just a boob. You’d feel frightened, because the society can’t afford not to have a healthy media sector. The news business, especially, is essential to our very democracy.



And, I’m guessing, you’d eventually begin to feel guilty -- because while you’ve managed to dine out on the misery of others, and keep yourself from being swallowed whole by the sinkhole that has claimed so many of your colleagues, you yourself haven’t done one blessed thing to find a solution. You jerk.

Now what?

Well, turns out I’m actually not guessing. I can speak from experience on all of this stuff. And I know what the “Now what” is. It is the imperative, once and for all, to seek solutions, to put my mouth where the lack of money is. This process will begin Oct. 30 in Philadelphia, where my colleagues at the Wharton School Future of Advertising Program at the SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management and my colleagues at MediaPost have joined me to organize the inaugural Media Future Summit.

Not a big conference. Not a seminar. Not a junket. Not a trade show. MFS will convene a room full of owners and top managers from across the media ecosystem to share experience, expertise and most of all truth in their mutual search for revenue solutions to the structural problems that bedevil us all. Among the topics will be micropayments, affiliate marketing, native advertising, social distribution, commerce, disintermediation, the donor model and much more crammed into a 9-hour day.

 No golf in the afternoon, alas.

From the stage, delegates will get the latest reports from the revenue front lines, but there will be little distinction between what is said from the stage and from the floor. It’s a summit of equals. As Milo Minderbinder told his Air Corps compatriots on Pianosa, “We’re all in the Syndicate, and everyone has a share.” Afterwards, the group will promulgate a communique of principles and practices, including, of course, next steps.

Not only is the Media Future Summit a non-junket, it is costly to participate. Even the 13 co-hosts are paying $3000 to attend, which will cover the catering and the lovely Lucite memento, but also be the downpayment in an ongoing movement, as our slogan puts it so loftily, “toward vibrant, sustainable and ethical media in a democratic society.” 

Oh, yeah. You’re probably not invited. Partly because there are limited slots and partly to limit participation to ultimate decision makers, this is an invitation-only affair. Should you be so fortunate as to receive one, I guess you’re a bigshot wielding levers of strategy and investment. And if you pay so dearly for a badge, you are obviously a highly motivated, highly committed bigshot.

Did you see Apollo XIII? There’s a crippled spacecraft between earth and the moon, and Houston has to figure out how to repair an onboard compressor, MacGyver-like, with stuff available to the astronauts onboard. So the flight director empties a cardboard box full of duplicate parts on a Johnson Spaceflight Center work table and tells the engineers to find a fix. For once, I’ll be one of the engineers; I may even wear a white half-sleeve shirt. And I intend to collaborate my butt off.

That’ll be us Oct. 30, 2015 -- and every year, until we can bring the crippled media economy safely home.









2 comments about "Apollo XIII Part 2".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 14, 2015 at 10:36 a.m.

    I hope your conference can parse "how much" society can’t afford not to have a healthy media sector. The news business, a very small percentage of the profits, is arguably essential to our very democracy, but how much should it cost and how well-paid must it operate? Maybe the time for millionaire news readers is over. It's interesting that you mention public radio beause public TV spends so very little time on news (and even then it's from Twitter-misusers like Gwen Ifill). Maybe it's time for less elitist and left-leaning programming and more just-the-facts news, underwritten by the same corporate largess. Advertising is a great ambush medium but technology has removed the shrubbery that kept the forced viewing workable.

  2. Christopher Stephenson from OnWords, September 15, 2015 at 5:10 p.m.

    Bob - this sounds great. Long overdue and much needed. Kudos and good luck! If I don't get the invite I'll assume it was an oversight or an over-aggressive spam filter.

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