Sure, your media company claims “digital first” — but does it hire like it?


It’s been five years now since you’ve solemnly vowed “digital first.”

It might have felt like a bold step at the time, but by now you should have adapted. Your customers, current and future, have all gone digital. They are “digital first.”

But are you?

Have you taken all the necessary steps to deliver on this sacred promise?

  • Do you have the supporting business models?

  • Do you invest more in digital R&D than in print, property, or any other venture you might have launched to diversify revenue?

  • Are you recruiting the talent that will be able to lift your operation into this bright, interactive future?

Because it is definitely bright — for those who ticked the above points. If you haven’t, that makes me extremely anxious. And the single factor that worries me the most is that you haven’t ticked the last point.

If you think you will make this 360-degree turnaround (in the short time left at your disposal) with the print competence you automatically have, you will fail.

I regularly train media managers from across the globe. One example is the executive management programme Nordic Media Programme (NMP) run by the media association in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

This is an exciting cross-disciplinary and multi-national model where participants challenge themselves and each other. My colleague, Bo-Magnus Salenius, and I use action learning techniques combined with external inspiration to dramatically move mindsets.

During the last module in Norway’s beautiful capital, Oslo, we welcomed brilliant U.S. media strategist Ken Doctor for an exclusive lecture and workshop day. This was an example of great people co-creating great thoughts on the future in general and future successful media in particular.

That’s fine. Well, that’s more than fine.

However, when directly asked if these top managers were satisfied with their human resources strategy, very few gave a positive reply.

This was a painful awakening, for sure. However, it led to challenging but productive discussions on how to become a cool employer, capable of attracting the digital talents within programming, SEO, user experience design, and other crucial disciplines.

John Paton says put the digital people in charge of everything. He was and is still right.

But as I move around legacy media companies and assess transition processes, I worry that you:

  1. Haven’t put the digital people in charge of anything (of strategic importance).

  2. Cannot attract them to your companies altogether.

Gartner goes so far as to claim that the chief digital officer (CDO) will be the “most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead.”

The CDO numbers are also predicted to increase – from 500 last year to 1,000 by the end of 2014.

A restaurant with Michelin star dreams will not attract fine diners if it keeps working with the same staff, who only know how to flip burgers. A Formula 1 car manufacturer will not gain credibility with the top drivers if he merely employs autodidact car mechanics from the used car repair shop on the corner. And airline passengers will never take a seat in a jumbo jet piloted by someone who learned the tricks from a simulator.

To succeed with a giant digital leap, you need to take many small strategic steps in that direction. One should involve structure.

Other industries are hiring their CDOs now.

When will you?

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