A Declaration of Interdependence in the Digital Age

07/04/2017 07:24 pm ET Updated Jul 05, 2017

Technology has always created disruption and change.

At its best, digital technology empowers the world. It enables products and services that are continuously faster, better, cheaper, and friendlier. It renders inefficiencies and redundancies irrelevant. Personal success is based on intelligence and contribution, and every individual and company has the opportunity to create its own unique brand in the marketplace.

At its worst, the digital world limits choices rather than expanding them. It costs jobs and creates complexity during the transition from legacy models to new ones. Finally, it rewards the aggregators and distributors of ideas not the creators.

Technology is agnostic. It doesn’t have an emotional investment in the outcome … at least not yet. We decide if the digital age brings out our best or worst.

Lessons from Digital Media

Media and entertainment are a microcosm of the promise and peril of digital technology. You are at ground zero.

Don’t like a particular editorial columnist or news commentator? You never have to read, see, or hear from them again.

Want to interact with diverse viewpoints? The number of U.S. bloggers rose from 22.9 million in 2008 to 33.4 million in 2014.

Like a song that you hear, but don’t want to purchase the entire EP or album? Download one song or simply program it into your streaming playlist.

The convenience and customization of digital media are beautiful things … except when they aren’t.

Avid has been on the front-lines of the march to digital media for over 25 years. It pioneered the non-linear editing systems that power a majority of the commercially produced content you see and hear today.

Louis Hernandez, Jr., Chairman and CEO, honestly and thoughtfully embraces what’s working and acknowledges what isn’t in his new book, The Storyteller’s Dilemma. He shared a few nuggets with me during a recent conversation:

  • Technology has shortened the distance between content creator and consumer. There has never been more access to the creation and consumption of information and entertainment. The bad news is that there has never been more access to “news” and entertainment created without any filter provided by professional standards.
  • Almost 60 percent of Americans get at least some of their news from a social media outlet. Eighteen percent do so often. Some of your friends verify what they share, but truthfully, don’t a large number of them fall for every “fake news” story that comes along?
  • Digital technology has altered the economics of the industry. The shortened distance between creator and consumer has resulted in lost jobs and created new ones. The transition is messy.
  • Suffering for your art is real. Content aggregators and distributors – not the artists – now make most of the money. Back in the days of CD’s, an artist earned $1,000 by selling 362 units. Earning that same amount today requires 4,392 audio downloads and somewhere between 100,000 and 1 million streams depending on the streaming provider.
  • You have access to millions of new content providers, but you probably stick with your favorites. Hernandez calls it “The Paradox of Endless Choice,” and it explains why you continue to listen to all of your favorite songs or artists rather than take a chance on a new option.
  • Content distributors have a vested interest to promote reliable and safe stars more than new talent. You can’t blame them. The risk of failure is high so they support sure things. It’s like going to a horse race and then waiting to see who is ahead coming out of the final turn before placing your bet.

The Choice for Your Business and Industry

Humans have used media to inspire and inform since the earliest campfire stories and cave drawings. Digital technology equips more effective storytelling and allows anyone with a smartphone or laptop to share their message on a global stage. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

The answer is “yes” and “yes.”

Media industry leaders must decide their response. Will they – like technology – remain agnostic about the impact of disruption and change? Should they openly acknowledge that making the world better for most people means that some people will lose? Or, will they declare their interdependence and actively work to maintain the positive outcomes of change while mitigating the unintended consequences?

It is the same for your business and industry. No one will escape the promise and peril of this change. Hernandez lays out a compelling case for embracing interdependence in The Storyteller’s Dilemma. Ultimately, however, it is a choice that requires collaboration from all participants.

Technology is the tool for change. People decide how the tool will be used. What choice will you declare?

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit www.penningtongroup.com , email info@penningtongroup.com, or call 972.980.9857.

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