Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Reflecting on Day One of the IRTS/Disney Digital Summit

So many people wonder how university professors spend their summers. Many, like myself, spend them reading and attending professional conferences, workshops and/or summits. Some teach, some rest, some just disappear. It is their right and choice to do what they choose. With that said, here are some notes from the first day at ABC/Disney in Burbank, CA.

We heard from more than a dozen Disney executives. They all are focused on the digital space. Analog is officially dead in their minds, literally and figuratively. In terms of training students, they noted that we are now training them for jobs that do not exist. The key then becomes helping the students to be flexible. This is no small feat when some students in this generation want to be told what to do instead of figuring out what to do.

In terms of marketing, digital allows people to watch more television (through the Internet, cable, satellite, mobile, etc.) and that allows for greater brand extension. In other words, wherever you watch a show or a program, there is an opportunity for the content creator to make you aware of their brand, products and/or programming.

My apologies, I did not write down where they found this piece of research. However, the stat is worth noting. 7% of people who watch shows online don't own a TV. I'l just let that sink in for a minute.... So many people are investing so much money in HD, LCD, plasma. etc. when the tide will change once again. Soon, you will be able to project a movie that is on your cell phone onto a wall. For business people, that will mean that your powerpoint or keynote presentation will be on your mobile device and then you can just pull it out and project it on the wall.

Mike Mellon, SVP, Research, ABC Television Network likened the transition to the Disney blockbuster the Lion King. He said that the change is reminiscent of the Circle of Life. Of course, I had to really accept that Mufasa represents old, traditional media and that some traditions and unfortunately standards have seemed to die and not be passed on to Simba in the new media age. The new still needs the wisdom of the old. Again, this should not be an "either" "or", it has to be an and. Both old AND new must come together. The old has the sound journalistic practices, the new just has new tools and technologies through which to deliver the message. I know this is pollyanna idealism but to preserve the democracy ethics, substance and credibility count.

Part of the problem for the movie industry is the same problem the music industry faced, pirating. People downloading or gaining access to movies outside of the theater which costs studios millions of dollars. Maybe studios should just make movies available immediately for a fee similar to iTunes. People who want them are going to get them anyway. People who want to go to the movies are going to go anyway. Give everybody an option to choose what they want and stop losing so much money. I know I'm just thinking aloud. But sometimes unfettered brainstorming is good. Actually, it's the only way to progress is this virtual age. Read The Contrarian Leader by Stephen B. Sample.

ABC has a FEP, Full Episode Player online. The most watched night is Friday night. That means the audience is still looking for something to do on Friday night. They are exploring ways to maximize the FEP's reach.

The notion of cannibalism was raised which basically means is one medium devouring the audience of the other. So if I drive people online, am I in turn driving them away from television? Probably not. People use the distribution tool they want when they want it. You drive the audience away when you don't respect their right to choose. As soon as content providers realize that five generations of people are living and that yes, there is still a miniscule need for cassette tapes, VHS, DVD etc. They will learn how to market to the different groups and provide the appropriate tools. There is money in the niche, thanks Chris Anderson, The Long Tail.

It is clear that Mobile is the next frontier. Most people have no idea what their phones can do. Many just use them to make calls and to text people. The Asian culture uses their mobile phones as their DNA and as a credit card.

Change and innovation are inevitable. One of the presenters, MK Haley, Director, Product Development, Digital Media, Disney ABC Television Group shared several examples that I use in my consulting seminars to help people think about the impact and magnitude of change. For example, she asked people to write their name and then to use the opposite hand to do the same. She talked about expanding your mind by changing your habits. So many people are being forced to change because of downsizing and layoffs. The stubborn ones are holding their guns and literally going down with ship. My goal is to help as many people as possible embrace change.

I am currently reading Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich, it was around longer than the Secret but not as long as the Bible of course. Faith and action are the key in this new media landscape. I'll have more to report. Stay tuned. I'll also be discussing this post with Professor Rick Hancock, University of Connecticut on his blog at

Sorry so long, hopefully, it was worth it.

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