THE BLOG
09/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Confessions Of A Roller-Coaster Addict

Kids like Roller-coasters -- they're biologically wired for the moment where your stomach hangs in the air. Between the gruesome clickity click up the hill, and the 'ugh' as you head down -- well, you probably remember.

Most adults get to a place where they try and avoid the high highs and the low lows. Maybe it's responsibility, or just the wisdom to know that feeling isn't always a good thing.

But I didn't learn that.

I like the roller-coaster, both the experience and the analogy.

Let me explain. I'm a Startup guy. I look at a blank piece of paper and see possibilities, rather than a void. So over the course of my career, I've found myself at the crossroads of change. The places where old business models die a gut-wrenching, fitful, dramatic death, and new ideas emerge. That's the fun part, I tell people. But lately folks seem a bit suspicious. You really like this? This media evolution? This fast motion trip with blind corners and corkscrew twists and turns?

Yep. I do.

Here's why. From the day I was old enough to think about what TV was, I was pretty sure it wasn't what it could be. I wrote high school papers about Newton Minow's "Vast Wasteland" speech. High school.

I read, and marked up the groundbreaking "4Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" book by Jerry Mander.

Published in 1977 -- the book is broken in to 4 sections:

First, that far from being "neutral," television predetermines who shall use it, how they will use it, its effects and what sorts of political forms will inevitably emerge.

Mander argues that while television may seem useful, interesting, and worthwhile, it boxes people into a condition perfect for the emergence of autocratic control.

The second argument portends consolidation of voices and points of view, here of course he was spot on.

The third argument concerns the effects of television upon humans - the "Coach Potato Syndrome".

The fourth argument suggests that TV is anti-democratic. The effect is to drastically confine all human understanding within a rigid channel.

This all seemed perfectly reasonable to me, as a high-school student. The only thing I didn't agree with was the inevitability of it. I was sure that the universe would note these faults and therefore would emerge a solution that uses visual media to replace one-way, non-democratic TV with something better.

The good news is -- I was right.

The bad news is -- it's taking a longtime, and the changes are both economically and socially complex and painful.

We're back to my metaphorical roller-coaster. As I've suggested, you need to like the ride, not just the high points.

Which is why you can almost tell who's going to come out on top of this media upheaval. First of all, media companies have been pounding into audiences ears for years now that they need to 'trust' their large media friends, while at the same time, these media sources have become more combative, less careful, more opinionated, less balanced. Of course, if you're struggling to remain big, then being more controversial and noisy will attract attention. But -- the audience has more choices, so they're going more places. The bottom line, you're fighting a losing battle if you try and keep your economics big to while your audience thins out.

So, the roller-coaster requires thinking that is more about innovation than protecting your core audience. It's about acknowledging a fundamental change in media makers and consumers, and shifting from 'Preaching the News' to 'Teaching The News'. Convening a conversation is a very different task than standing at the podium and lecturing to a passive crowd.

I know that all this makes some folks crazy -- but I think it's exciting as hell.

I told someone the other day -- we're alive during the invention of electricity. It's like the web turns the lights on for ideas. How cool is that. Business models -- well, what was the business model for candle makers after the electric light bulb came along?

Ideas as electricity. Now there's a metaphor I can chew on for a while.