[This is part of a series related to lessons and insights from my five years of being a journalist/blogger.]
One of my most important insights in the five years since I left my job as a reporter and columnist for the Financial Times, came to me when I visited Cisco Systems in early 2005.
I had a meeting with Dan Scheinman, who was at the time, head of mergers and acquisitions at Cisco. This was one of the most powerful jobs in Silicon Valley because of the tremendous number of acquisitions Cisco has made - and continues to make.
What was extra interesting about Mr Scheinman was that he was also Director of Corporate Communications. I found this combination of two very important jobs fascinating. He could use the considerable might of the Cisco communications machine to make sure that entrepreneurs were working on developing technologies and companies that Cisco needed to fuel its tremendous growth. (IBM does something similar - its VC group led by Drew Clark also lets entrepreneurs know what technologies it needs. It's a VC group that makes no capital investments.)
I had no idea that our meeting would reveal some fascinating insights into the nature of media and the new roles that companies now played in the overall "mediasphere."
Mr Scheinman was particularly proud of the news@cisco team. This is a large editorial team staffed by former journalists and top editors from newspapers and magazines. It produces content focused on Cisco and its customers. This is a team that produces top-notch quality media in a variety of formats that meets the highest journalistic standards.
It's not a typical comms department pumping out press releases and white papers.
Also, Cisco was already using media technologies such as RSS, it already had more than 200 RSS feeds! This was in early 2005. And when Mr Scheinman shared with me traffic figures, I was shocked.
Cisco was getting higher traffic to news@Cisco than any of the top IT publications, such as ComputerWorld, InfoWorld, and many other huge computer trade publications. I was amazed.
Cisco is a large media company...
I realized that something truly phenomenal was happening here. This was an example of a corporation as publisher and publication. Cisco makes network gear but it's also a media company, one of the largest in the world.
I realized that every company is now a media company. It doesn't matter if it makes network gear or diapers, every company needs to publish to its various communities, its customers, its staff, it's neighbors. It needs to know how to produce compelling content, great video, podcasts, etc. And now with this emerging two-way Internet it also needs to learn how to listen, how to get involved in online discussions, how to behave on Facebook or Twitter. Every company needs to master the media technologies of RSS, blogging, and more.
But how does a company know how to be a media company? Companies know how to do what they do, to make diapers, steel, provide healthcare. They are experts at doing what they do. But how does a company know what it takes to be a media company? It's not easy being a media company.
Companies need to do what Cisco does. Companies need to bring in media professionals to help them become media companies.
And this is something that I'm trying to do too, help companies understand this transition, help them become media companies.
I'm a member of the Intel Insiders, a small group of people advising Intel. I am also a founding fellow of the Society of New Communications Research (http://sncr.org/), a Palo Alto based non-profit think-tank, which works in this important field.]
Mr Scheinman is now head of Cisco's Media Solutions Group. He is also helping companies become media companies, by making sure they have the hardware and software they need for this role.
I will be writing more on this topic because this is one of the most important insights I've had, and yet it is only now, nearly five years later, starting to be recognized by others.
The fact that every company is a media company is extremely important because this is what will drive tremendous amounts of sales of hardware, software, and services of all kinds.
This will increasingly become the point of the spear in terms of driving new business for Cisco, IBM, HP, Intel and a host of other tech companies. And it goes beyond tech... way beyond, to touch nearly every aspect of every enterprise, imho.