Saturday, October 6, 2018

Innovation studies go back to the future

Predicting the future has always been a dangerous business in the creative industries. As any economist will tell you, products like books, movies, TV shows, and music are "experience goods", which can only be evaluated after they are purchased or experienced.

Making predictions or recommending strategies is especially difficult now with rapid technological change disrupting every creative industry. This theme appeared in several of the presentations at the  Creative Industries and Media Management Conference held at the University of Porto, Portugal, Sept. 19-21. The conference was organized by Paulo Faustino of Porto and Nova universities.

--Michal Glowacki, professor of journalism at the University of Warsaw, presented preliminary findings from a study of the dynamics of organizational culture in public media that identified success factors in what he calls creative media clusters.

Researchers interviewed 15 leaders in media, business, culture, and education in each of 10 cities--Copenhagen, Warsaw, Brussels, Vienna, London, Talinn (Estonia), Toronto, Austin, Detroit, and Cambridge, Mass. A major finding is that these centers share a density of business startups, a highly educated workforce, elite universities, cultural events, and cafes and nightlife that cater to creative people.

Often these clusters pop up in abandoned industrial buildings with large open spaces and cheap rent. The creative workforce tends to be singles or childless couples living nearby to take advantage of low-cost living and avante-garde entertainment.

--Mark Deuze, professor of journalism and media at the Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam , presented his latest book, Making Media: Production, Practices, and Professions. He and co-editor Mirjam Prenger present 35 essays that focus on the experience of workers within the global media, "including specific case studies of the film, television, games and software, journalism, advertising, and music industries."

Deuze teased out a few themes common to many of the essays. Among them, the precarity of media businesses and workers: even Tom Cruise can't finance a movie without the help of Chinese investors. Experienced journalists, laid off from secure jobs with good salaries, are now reduced to being paid a few hundred euros for a freelance story on a digital news site.

There is no more division of church and state in news organizations. Editors and reporters have to work with marketers to understand the needs and problems of their audiences and interact with them rather than preaching to them. If they don't, they lose the audience.

User data has become an important predictor of consumer tastes and preferences, so the tech companies that dominate this space--Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and Google--have taken away advertising from the news industry and creative content from TV and film studios. These new media giants are controlling our access to all content.

--Chris Bilton, professor at the University of Warwick and author of The Disappearing Product, talked about what he called "the new intermediaries in the creative industries." The old intermediaries were what we have called media companies--print publishers, movie and TV producers, and record labels. The new intermediaries are technology companies like Spotify (music), Netflix (movies and TV), Amazon (books and retail of all kinds).

These new intermediaries have redefined what "value" means in the creative industries: context is more important than content, Bilton said. That is, the product that customers buy is not as important as the context in which they are buying, namely the information about their behavior, preferences, personal and professional relationships, location, and income.

This information, or context, allows these companies to offer each customer more-relevant products and results in a time-based business model--how can we use this information to generate future revenue--rather than a product based metric like average revenue per user.

Since these technology platforms control consumption of content rather than production, they are willing to sell any product without making a judgment about its quality, Bilton said. Somewhat paradoxically, these monopolistic giants have opened up opportunities for small-scale independent producers of video, books, digital media, and music to take their products directly to the public through the platforms. Today, more small players can get in the game.

Your humble servant made two presentations at the conference:

How to build media credibility and sustainable value in the post-truth era
'Monetize' and other dirty words journalists have to learn how to say 


Publishers pivot toward users and credibility  
How quality content can win in the long run
How digital media monetize their social capital
If you don't have money, use social capital

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