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Millennials, news, and the Borneo effect

17 March 2015 · By Steve Gray

It’s the Year of the Millennials, according to Pew. In 2015, those ages 18 to 34 will surpass Baby Boomers in the United States to become the largest living generation.

And a major new report by the Media Insight Project, just released at the NAA mediaXchange, sheds a lot of new light on their consumption of news.

The report (pdf, html) emphasises the bright side, stressing the finding that most Millennials do value news and consume it regularly. But the most worrisome finding for newspaper companies is that they rarely go to traditional news providers to get it. We are far back in the loop, when we’re in it at all.

Beyond that key point, the most important things to grasp in this report are ...


Why we need to change the audience game

23 February 2015 · By Steve Gray

Media folks, can we all agree on this statement? We’re in the audience business.

If you disagree, we need to talk, and we’ll do that in a minute.

But first, here’s the nut graf:

As an audience business, we’re overdue for a drastic rethink of what we do. Too often, we’re still doing 20th-century audience thinking amid the starkly different realities of the 21st century. We’re getting pounded on the audience front, and we have to figure out what audience strategies will work in this new environment.

Now let’s see if we can all get on the same page regarding the importance of audience:

  • If you’re thinking we’re in the news business, you’re right. We love the news, and we’re proud of what it does for people. But the business reason for doing news is to have an audience. Without an audience, we don’t have a business.

  • If you’re thinking we’re in the sales business, you’re right. But what we sell is access to our audiences. Without an audience, we don’t have a business.

Audience is the starting point and the centerpiece of our local media businesses. That’s because ...


Local media need to join the fight for retail in-store traffic

25 January 2015 · By Steve Gray

In the local media business, whatever hurts retailers hurts us, too. They’re feeling a big hurt right now, and we need to help them fight back.

That big hurt is a steady and continuous decline in store traffic. This means loss of sales, and that leads nowhere good for them – or for local media.

Allison Schiff described the problem last week on AdExchanger.com, reporting on a talk that Lee Peterson, executive vice president of brand strategy and design at WD Partners, gave at a big retailer show in New York.

Here are some highlights:

  • In-store visits have fallen at least 5% every month for the past 30 months.

  • Holiday foot traffic was down 8.5%in 2014, but overall holiday sales were up ...

3 values crucial to your disrupted business

04 January 2015 · By Steve Gray

When your business is undergoing major disruption and must change direction, how do you get people on board? How do you win hearts and minds to the new strategies needed to survive and thrive?

Last time, I blogged about a powerful principle that helps. It goes like this: “The only thing that changes people’s behaviour is new information. They will go on doing what they're doing right now, until they get new information.”

New information is what convinces organisations and people of the need to change. And it’s the responsibility of leaders in an organisation to share the information that convinces them change is necessary. That’s what mobilises people.

If you haven’t read that post, you should probably do it now, because this post builds on it.

This post starts with the admission that even the most powerful new information won’t get some people to change. They will go on doing what they’re doing right now, even when they’ve seen conclusive evidence that it isn’t working.

What’s up with that?

In the same brilliant 1992 talk I mentioned last time, Morrie Shechtman provided answers that made tremendous sense.

He asserted that people and organisations run on certain values, and that when those values differ, the result is conflict that blocks progress. Those values have much to do with ...


How to change behaviour in your disrupted organisation

30 November 2014 · By Steve Gray

When a company or industry is beset by massive disruption – as the traditional media have been for more than a decade now – it creates two massive challenges:

  1. Figuring out how the business has to change.

  2. Changing behaviours in the organisation to get the new things done.

As most people in the newspaper industry can testify, both of these are difficult and relentless. There’s no “one and done” in a disruption as massive as the digital revolution.

And, unfortunately, success at No. 1 is no guarantee of success at No. 2.

Over last three years, I’ve blogged frequently about No. 1. This time let’s look at No. 2.

There’s a principle that applies over and over again when you’re trying to change people’s behaviours, in business or anywhere else. I learned it in a business seminar 22 years ago, and it forever changed my thinking and behaviour. But, strangely, I’ve never heard or read about it anywhere else.

Here’s how it happened ...


Thinking bigger than native advertising

05 November 2014 · By Steve Gray

One of the biggest challenges legacy media companies face today is learning to think big enough to meet the real, 21st-century needs of advertisers.

There’s a lot of talk about native advertising right now. And – done right – it can help to meet those real needs. But native is, at best, only a small piece of a much bigger puzzle.

For those who learn how to solve that bigger puzzle for advertisers, the payoff can be much greater than just another sale of print space, air time, or digital display units.

The challenge

Everybody knows the old saw, attributed to Ted Levitt of Harvard, that the customer doesn’t want a quarter-inch drill. He wants a quarter-inch hole.

In the media business, the advertiser doesn’t want print, digital, native, e-mail, social, etc. He/she wants a customer showing up who’s ready to spend money. That’s the “quarter-inch hole,” and all forms of advertising are only means to this end.

In the old, pre-digital days, it was pretty easy to get that outcome. Put advertisements in a newspaper that everyone reads, or on television stations everybody watches, and you’re done.

It didn’t take a lot of sophistication to sell or buy those solutions; we were selling mainly media space or time – a commodity for which there were few substitutes.

Today, ...


Core sales teams at media companies can’t sustain digital advertising future

05 October 2014 · By Steve Gray

What does the local media company of the future look like?

At this point, the answer is pretty clear. There will be two kinds of media companies:

  • Those that continue to focus on their traditional media channels — newspaper, broadcast television channel, radio station(s) — and therefore shrink along with the advertising spending on those media.

  • Those that morph into local media houses that can connect any advertiser with any audience, through platforms, technologies, and channels they own or dont, to win dollars that are moving into digital advertising and marketing.

I’ve been seeing that dual outcome since about 2007, when I was on the road preaching Newspaper Next to thousands of media people. Yet even today, quite a few people are still asking the question.

The answer hasn’t changed much in seven years. What has changed, and continues to change, is ...


After media disruption: Human behaviour in “The Age of Knowing Everything”

07 September 2014 · By Steve Gray

Let’s look beyond the waves of media disruption we’re experiencing these days. Let’s try to imagine the end state, when media disruption gets done.

Wait ... will it ever get done? Yes, I think so — at the time when virtually everyone on the planet, during every waking moment, has instant access at will to virtually the entire body of human knowledge. (Maybe in sleeping moments, too.)

When we stand back and look at the big picture, what we call media disruption is really just a series of technological steps in that direction. Each step opens more hours of a person’s consciousness for access to more of the world’s information.

At some point, no longer very far in the future, that connected time will include ...


Publishers, is your business model as ludicrous as a Scotch Tape Boutique?

11 August 2014 · By Steve Gray

If you’re old enough to remember Saturday Night Live in its glory days, maybe you remember the hilarious sketches set in “the Scotch Tape Boutique at the old mall.”

The bit was centered on, and got its laughs from, a ridiculously narrow business model centered on a single product, sold in a retail location that was no longer the cool place to be. (I’d love to link to a clip here, but I couldn’t find one. NBC must be closely guarding its copyright.)

Those sketches came to mind this week as I was trying to think of a metaphor for the newspaper business and its relentless concentration on news. News continues to be our industry’s central purpose and the heart of its business model for attracting audiences.

I laughed out loud when it occurred to me that we might be well on the way to becoming the Scotch Tape Boutique. But the idea is as painful as it is funny.

Before I go any further, I need to say this ...


Native advertising: What is it, and why now?

14 July 2014 · By Steve Gray

“I want my ad to go right here,” Jerry Coolman said. He pointed at the middle two columns at the top of the newspaper page – right in the middle of an article. He wanted his ad for lawn tractors to hit readers smack between the eyes.

“Jerry, we can’t do that,” I said. “That’s the reader’s space – we can’t plunk an ad down in the middle of it.”

That was 1983. Now, 20 years later, it turns out we can plunk an ad down in the reader’s space. It’s being done more and more, and it’s being called a new name: “native advertising.”

Some are hailing it as a breakthrough for advertisers and for media company revenues. Others are reviling it as ...


About this blog

I’m Steve Gray, and I blog about disruption in the media – why it’s happening and what to do about it. As the world’s information pipe expands to infinity, my goal is to help the news media industry see the new opportunities we can create in our markets. I led the American Press Institute (API) Newspaper Next project from 2005 to 2009, teaching thousands of media executives to create new business models. Since then I’ve worked on innovation projects with the newspaper, magazine and book divisions of Morris Communications in Augusta, Georgia, USA.

Contact Steve

Click here to message Steve

The basics of media disruption

Part I: The Mass Media era: a 150-year bubble

Part II: The end of the Mass Media Era

Part III: What about news?


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