Media companies must keep up with breakneck pace of change in 2012


This is the time for New Year predictions, and I'm keen to make mine. Three hundred years ago, making a prediction about the near future would have been pretty easy. If asked, “What do you see for next year?” you could safely predict next year would be very, very much like this year. Not so today.

And so, my first prediction: The pace of change will increase.

“We shall never again see change move at such a slow pace.” That was the sobering statement that concluded a presentation on the future at last year's Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. For those of us who have been dealing with the most extraordinary changes in our businesses, it is a prediction that generates a fair amount of trepidation. Yet, it is a prediction that will surely be proved true.

My second prediction: Successful media companies will embrace the change.

You've heard that “two heads are better than one.” So imagine the power of 2 billion brains. The Internet connects us. As of March 2011, more than 2 billion people were connected to the Internet and, as a result, to each other. It is this “connected collective” that is powering the massive rate of change we are experiencing. In the past, scientists worked in isolation (alone or in small teams). Having made a discovery, they published their work so their peers could review it and substantiate or refute it. Today that process is massively compressed. Scientists are now able to collaborate in ways previously unimaginable, in real time. And so are writers, educators, inventors, technologists, investors, students, musicians, governments, revolutionaries, and marketers. As more and more people connect, the results of those collaborations will come faster and faster.

What do I see for 2012 in the newspaper industry? The easy and most accurate answer is, of course, more change. But I see another change happening in our industry. And it is a positive one. We are beginning to change the way we react to change. We are starting to move away from defending past beliefs, practices, and models. We've gone from denial of the changes to acceptance of this new world order. And we are moving toward embracing the changes and creating new, vibrant, and resilient businesses built on the valuable assets that we possess.

Change isn't easy. Most humans resist it. And businesses are no different. No doubt 2012 will see some businesses suffer as their customers fly past them to new alternatives. But those that embrace the change, that leverage the power of the collective, that innovate in the way they meet the changing needs of their customers will be reborn.

Happy New Year.

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