There was a time when you pulled your car into a gas station and a bell rang. As you sat in your car, about a dozen uniformed attendants would rush out to your vehicle and surround it. They would fill your car with gas and monitor the other essential fluids. They would check your tire pressure, clean your windshield, and shine the chrome on your bumper until you could use it as a mirror. When your sparkling car was ready for departure, you might receive a road map or even a stuffed animal for your child.
The treatment was spectacular, considering you really only needed gas.
This is the picture that kept running through my head as I sat down to be interviewed for a show that inexplicably named me as one of the most interesting people of the year. (It wasn't a very interesting year, apparently.)
I sat there in utter amazement at the sheer scale of what needed to happen to pull this off. My segment was just a few minutes. It was a simple interview with Barbara Walters and myself. Yet, bustling around my office was close to 50 people, setting up and tearing down for hours and hours through multiple shifts. There was so much equipment, I wondered if the floors could hold it. There were handlers, caterers, and handlers for the caterers. They closed part of Sixth Avenue. There were more people in our offices to do a meaningless two-minute interview than worked in my entire company.
It was the ultimate illustration of how far we've come. The world is not changing, it has changed. Only now are the people in the old media starting to figure out what has happened.
If you are still holding on to the trappings of the past, understand the message: The layers of machinery that separate content creators from those who consume it are dead and gone. They won't be revived and you missed the funeral. They paved over the graveyard to build a campus for a technology company you haven't heard of yet.
The media of the future is nimble, fit, and intimate. It has no respect for its elders. It doesn't care how it was done before. There is a very real power in realizing this. Those who cling on to power are most likely to lose it.
The winners in this environment will be those who can successfully empower their readers, listeners, and viewers. They want something authentic. The average person would rather watch YouTube than Geraldo Rivera because they trust their neighbor more than the media. (Of course, there still needs to be a way to cut through all of the people pointing their phones at themselves in the bathroom. In both examples.)
We could all guess at how technology will develop. The only certain thing is that in 10 years our predictions will look ridiculous. Those who survive don't necessarily have to be the first to pick Periscope over Meerkat. How people will consume the content they desire is important, but secondary.
"The media of the future is nimble, fit, and intimate. It has no respect for its elders. It doesn't care how it was done before. There is a very real power in realizing this."
What is still most vital are the forgotten principles of basic human interaction and respect. They will always work regardless of the device they are viewed on. Make people laugh, make people think, and make people feel. Care about what you say, tell the truth as you understand it, and put your principles over your interests. You are no longer a performer on a stage, you are a voice in a crowd. Bring your audience inside. Let them contribute, amplify, and be humble enough to warmly welcome their ability to deepen your understanding. Just doing some of those things well will make you immensely successful. Do them all and you might change the world.
Congratulations to the Huffington Post for 10 years of innovation and success. When the Huffington Post became the first new media source to get a question from the President, people mocked the idea of the Internet handling such an important role. Now, we're wondering if there's any role at all left for the old media.
Someday soon, the old media will be gone, fully relegated to the dustbin of history. They will take their place next to those poorly choreographed groups of 1950s gas station attendants. I can't wait to read the Huffington Post's story about it.
This post is part of a series commemorating The Huffington Post's 10-year anniversary through expert opinions looking forward to the next decade in their respective fields. To see all of the posts in the series, read here.
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