Content, sales, tech must co-exist in today’s media company

By Martha Ortiz

Medellin, Colombia


Once upon a time, media was an industry with three towers that shared the kingdom but didn’t communicate with each other.

There was an urban myth about this: Citizens believed talking to residents in the other towers resulted in losing their names, being considered a traitor, and who knows what else. It was quite scary.

Well, this isn’t far from reality. When I started in this business, the structure of a media company was created by three segments literally called towers: content, sales, and print production/distribution.

Everyone was so proud of their tower.

However, as a leader of innovation, someone called me “traitor” because I spoke to the “others” and sat in on meetings with everyone. This is not fantasy nor a joke. As absurd as it sounds, it was the reality, but the company and the teams were successful and very profitable.

Today’s media environment requires conversation and collaboration among departments.
Today’s media environment requires conversation and collaboration among departments.

The beginning of the Internet changed the structure to three lines again, but this time they were content, sales, and technology. Everything else was considered back office, but don’t get too enthusiastic! This didn’t mean we threw away the invisible borders or adopted a real digital mindset.

The tech department was far away, almost in a different kingdom. They spoke a different language and loved the fact nobody was able to speak such a “difficult” code.

Today, you can see many organisational charts have left those rigid times behind, destroyed the “towers,” and designed new ways to connect teams. You can study a matrix or circle as a way to explain the new relationships and workflows among teams to serve an audience.

This approach seems pretty obvious today when thinking about strategy, however it has been very difficult to implement. Why? I believe it has to do with cultural barriers stemming mainly from egos and stereotypes.

In her book The Danger of a Single Story, Nigerian writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains that “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

I couldn’t agree more, but just to help this exercise and promote change, let’s play a bit with it.

Some journalists’ egos are similar to those of artists; they feel they are the centre. Their stereotype is that the sales and tech departments are too superficial to understand their “amazing art that is obviously easy to sell if they do their part.”

The egos of some sales people and marketers is related to money; they feel they are the business and, without them, it will be nothing. The stereotype is “no one cares and helps with their fun and crazy ideas.” By the way, ad blockers were born for a reason.

The egos of some tech experts is focussed on feeling like are the cool guys — the future. They love talking in acronyms among peers because they have to keep being cool. The stereotype is “nobody get the tech vibe.” What if everyone fell in love with tech because of them?

There are some media companies that have changed. Some are halfway there. But, all need to transition — and fast — from traditional journalism to numerous narratives across different platforms, from ad sales to problema-solving agencies and from print and circulation to digital environments.

What is the challenge? Talent and culture. How can this be achieved? With interdisciplinary teams working on projects together for their audience and are smart about how to invest their time and energy.

It is time to talk! Journalism, sales, and technology areas should have wonderful and creative conversations without “towers” so we can all live happily ever after.

About Martha Ortiz

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