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Foremski's last word: When every company is a media company

We are in the midst of a global disruption of the media industry thanks to Silicon Valley technologies.
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Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor on

My first post on ZDNet was in January 2006 in a column discussing "skinny applications." In the 16 years since then, I've continued to try to be ahead of the curve in terms of spotting key trends.

The most important trend I've written about, perhaps my biggest obsession, has been the disruption of the media industry business model using the technologies of the Internet. 

I've long recognized that the emergence of the web is a powerful publishing technology; the development of what was called Web 2.0, coupled with the explosive use of blogging technologies,  added a powerful additional feature. 

There is a double use -– the computer screen is both the publication and printing press — in that screen can also publish back. That made possible social media platforms, targeted advertising, and many other aspects of the modern online world as we currently experience it. 

Advertisers no longer need to rely on newspapers, TV, or radio to reach potential customers. They can reach and interact with consumers directly, whether the customers like it or not. 

The lost revenues have resulted in poor quality media and a danger to society. Although we recognize the need for media professionals, the gatekeepers, to keep things like hate speech and fake news in check — it's something that today's media companies like Facebook and Twitter either cannot or will not do.

Today we understand the value of traditional media and how it moderated public discussions, keeping them civil and focused. We understand the value of newspapers in keeping fake news out, and the value of high-quality, verified news stories.

So why cannot we capture that value and reward it? Why are scam sites filled with fake news getting rewarded? Why do we still have no solution? 

With all our visionaries and tech geniuses. we still haven't come up with a technology that can capture the value of high-quality media and reward it so that more can be produced? 

I realized nearly 20 years ago that the demise of the media industry means that every company has to become a media company to some degree. Journalists used to visit a company and write about its achievements but there are few journalists left and they are overworked. Companies have been forced to try and produce their own stories about themselves. 

However, companies are not well-suited to being media companies, and they find it hard to produce media content of every kind. Companies struggle with the editorial process. A single article produced by a company can involve weeks of meetings with stakeholders that can veto it at any point. This is a terribly inefficient and expensive way to produce media content.

Companies now have access to incredibly powerful media technologies: for example, they can outfit a high-definition video and recording studio for very little cost including sophisticated software editing tools. But it is not enough. Companies still need to produce compelling content on a regular schedule and it has to compete in a  world of compelling content — which is why companies struggle to be media companies and generally do a very bad job.

But companies must get better at being media companies because the disruption in the media industry continues without a solution in sight. 

Companies will have to get better at producing and distributing their own media. Over the past two decades, I have been showing some of the largest tech companies -- such as IBM, Intel, HP, SAP, Tibco, and Infineon-- how to be media companies. Change happens slowly but it happens.

"Every company is a media company" is one of the most important and disruptive trends in our global society.  It's exciting to be in the middle of such a shift. 

While this is my final IMHO post here on ZDNet, you can keep up with some of my work here at Silicon Valley Watcher – at the intersection of technology and media. And look out for Every Company is a Media Company:  EC=MC – a transformative equation for every business.

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