Finding common ground with digital nerds in Silicon Valley


There are two provocative questions media executives should be asking themselves nowadays: What would your company look like if you’d founded it today? Would it be the same as it is right now?

Certainly not. But how can you get closer to that perfect version you have in mind? Of course, you can create a vision to see how different it is from reality.

Axel Springer in Germany did this in March 2013, when the entire top management was sent to Silicon Valley for a couple of days to think about the gap between traditional media companies and the way things are done in Palo Alto. Can the old newspaper world and the world of digital nerds find common ground?

At first, this thought sounds ridiculous. Both cultures are too different, aren’t they?

But then Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought The Washington Post, and now the whole industry is wondering: What will happen to the famous Washington Post? Who can benefit from this clash of cultures?

Watch this little video to get an idea what this kind of connection with Silicon Valley really means… 

Of course, it’s fun. But this comedy has a serious message: Don’t ignore what is going on in the digital world. Embrace the change; be part of it. Get to know and understand as much as you can; see the opportunities offered.

The next INMA World Congress in 2014 will take place in San Francisco. That’s very close to the part of world where digital things are developed to change the way people all over the world consume their news. In Silicon Valley, game changers have an impact on our business.

We have no other choice but to listen to these guys, to cooperate with them, to find common ground. To do so, leave your comfort zone.

Axel Springer’s top management flew economy class from Germany to California (even the CEO did!), lived in a two-star hotel in downtown San Francisco, and shared (really true!) double bedrooms with colleagues. You cannot believe this? Watch this video of the adventure:

Here are five key lessons for media companies:

  1. Organise visits in Silicon Valley to get an impression of what the companies there are doing and how they handle the content your company creates. Learn their approach to business.

  2. Send executives of your company, not junior management, to Silicon Valley for some months to build connections and relationships with senior managers there. Yes, your daily business at home could suffer. But the ideas you gain are worth much more than the ad page you could miss.

  3. Invite the Silicon Valley guys to your company. They need you! They could have created the best technology ever. But, at the end of the day, they lack a deep knowledge of the local market and the consumers’ behaviour. That’s a huge unique selling proposition (USP) of the media companies.

  4. Create task forces within your companies, involving members from all departments. Anyone can add value to the discussion about how to benefit from the technology developed overseas — at least in the newsroom of resistant journalists.

  5. Create role models and business cases anyone talks about. Let the highest level of management start a personal blog. This will encourage others to do the same. Let them make mistakes; it doesn’t matter. Explain Google’s policy of trial and error and how you can benefit from the feedback of consumers.

After these five steps, you get closer than ever before to a vision of a perfect new company.

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