Your Attention Please

attention seeking

“Instagrams, Secrets, Whispers, and Snapchats are in direct competition with the Times…Daily attention is being sliced and diced multiple ways.”

That’s me in conversation with Ryan Tate of Wired who asked me to comment on Marc Andreessen’s recent post about the state and future of media. I have seen the evolution of dot-media, up close and personal and have learnt from the past mistakes and more recently put some of those lessons in practice. When Ryan contacted me, I pinged him back with my thoughts:

Being the first guys to the rodeo, we at Gigaom have tried many of these experiments and ideas, succeeding in many and not so much in some cases. In fact, in many ways it is nice to see Andreessen essentially validate our approach to the media business. The whole notion of things he talks about in the piece are things we have tried — vision, scrappiness, subscriptions, advertising — the whole shebang. So, it is hard for me to disagree with him.  Thus, as a practitioner, I see the validity of Marc’s arguments. Calling conference “human presence” is pretty awesome, but I will caution that that there are physical limits to what can be done and achieved in the conference business. 

So what we might have is “golden age of news and journalism” the “business of news is still in the dark ages.” However the business of news (not the production of news) is still mired in the systems of the past. For instance, the intellectual makeover of Madison Avenue hasn’t even started yet. We are still trying to retrofit old ideas of advertising on to today’s media models. The native advertising that is being talked about, actually doesn’t scale unless it is just another form of display advertising. The heroin of web media is CPM-based advertising.  In 2008, we realized that the old advertising paradigm isn’t going to last and created a subscription-driven research business. That was a tough decision to make then, but today we are super comfortable with where we sit and our growth trajectory as a company. 

Where I disagree with Marc:

The business of news still depends on a lot of hits. So while there is a 10x increase in the supply of news, there won’t be 10x increase in our attention. Daily attention is being sliced and diced multiple ways  — from Facebook to Twitter to whatever. And it is going to keep getting sliced and diced. In other words, Instagrams, Secrets, Whispers and Snapchats are in direct competition with the Times and everything else that is meant to inform us, including old the new news orgs. We are already a society of skimmers and how you turn skimmers into people who advertisers can sell to, or you can turn into a paying customers remains a challenge.

That said, being a media guy all my life, I am glad that Andreessen likes media and hopefully will shell out big dollars for someone. It is good for the overall (media) ecosystem.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jonny2Love

A letter from Om

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