At the intersection of Business, Law & Entertainment
Forgive me, but I’m about to get very personal with you. And, as with almost everything else, I’m going to use my personal feelings to talk about something I love: showbiz.
A family member was placed in hospice care a few weeks ago. I’m not talking about a human being, of course. I’m talking about a radio station, or said more appropriately in these parts, an entertainment brand. I’ve been thinking a lot about – well, everything – lately, and I’ve come to two sets of observations, both of them painfully obvious and yet not, all of which can be summed up by this reality:
One of the more remarkable things I’ve read lately is a piece that showed up in the New York Times last week in which Dean Baquet, the Times’ Executive Editor, answers questions from readers about changes to the way The Gray Lady is restructuring her editorial department, eliminating the copy desk and shedding some editors in the process.
There are two really important takeaways from the piece. The first is something I’ve been telling you about for years. The second will surprise you, but it shouldn’t.
Storytelling matters everywhere in the media – no matter how “serious” your job is. That said, we tend to forget that storytelling is a matter of degrees: there’s a difference between simply relaying an already-interesting story and painting a compelling picture out of interesting ingredients. Here’s an object lesson in that.
Oh, and if you think this is about soccer, you couldn’t be more wrong. Do yourself a favor and read your way to the payoff.
The advertising business is finding out what the rest of the media-industrial complex learned long ago: you can’t fight city hall. Or, in Jetsons Future terms, now that content options are somewhere between plentiful and functionally infinite, showbiz is like Burger King: each consumer gets to have it their way.
Here’s more shocking news about advertising: as far as your audience is concerned, it’s like every other form of content. When it’s compelling, an advertiser is golden. When it isn’t, well, there’s always a better viewing/listening/reading option a mere button punch away. And when they’re online, consumers don’t even need to turn away from content they want. They can simply block the offending advertising.
Because I have such a unique background – a couple decades leading radio stations and eight years as an attorney – I get asked about podcasting a lot. Here’s a question for you: as a podcaster, how are you going to stand out? In reality, that’s two questions:
First, how is your content going to stand out? Whether you’re talking to other lawyers or to potential clients, what do you have to say that isn’t already being said? Alternatively, how can you cover a well-covered subject in a way that cuts through the clutter, through all the other podcasts out there that may cover the same topic? Second, how are you going to truly reach your audience? Can you communicate your message in a way that will both keep your audience listening and cause listeners to retain your message? Radio programmers know this: it’s a lot tougher than it sounds.
Let’s talk about how much time you’ve devoted to becoming the lawyer you are today:
That headline is not a joke. Our DNA is primarily plantain.
Now think about this: y’know that schlub you deeply regret having to work with, the one you have nothing in common with? You two share 99.9% of your DNA. (Don’t worry – you’re also 99.9% genetically similar to all other human beings – including [insert name of your favorite person ever here] – so things could be worse.)
Here’s the point: things are actually a whole lot more alike than they appear. You think you have next to nothing in common with them, but you’re 99.9% the same as the Pope, a Kardashian, a Trump, a Clinton, and that jerk who dinged your car in the parking lot and didn’t leave a note. Let’s pivot to showbiz.
As entertainment professionals, we tell stories all the time. We spend most of our time thinking about the stories we’re going to tell to our fans, to the people who watch, listen to, or read the stories we create. We tend to spend less time thinking about all the stories we tell to our customers (whether that’s advertisers or, say, the producer who might buy our script), our coworkers/coperformers, our friends, and even ourselves.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the value of those other stories. Let’s learn about an independent minor league baseball team (meaning one that can sign whichever players it wants). Bear in mind that sports = entertainment; nothing more, nothing less. That’s why great athletes, with their extremely unique skills, make much the same kind of money that great actors and directors do.
Their story can teach you a lot about all the stories you tell.
In entertainment, we like to talk about how we make “content”, and technically, that’s what we do. After all, content is a business word, and we’re in show business. The problem is that “content” is a totally non-emotional word, and emotion and connection are what make show business different from every other business.
Wrong. Emotion and connection are what makes the difference between success and failure in every business. (What motivates people to hire an accountant or stockbroker? Is it because they’re a great golfer? Nope. It’s because of that emotion known as the feeling of security that goes with knowing that somebody who you trust is minding your money.)
Here’s what makes showbiz different: most people don’t identify with their accountant. On the other hand, they tend to identify rather strongly with their favorite entertainers. Said differently, the emotional reaction you get from your financial adviser is focused on you – you feel secure because your money is safe or growing (at least you hope it is). The emotional reaction you get from entertainment is focused on the entertainer – you feel connected to that person, their performance and their, er, content.
It was interesting seeing this blog post from this prominent venture capitalist who is a partner at this firm. The summary of the post is this: citing Amazon Prime and YouTube Red, he notes that entertainment businesses are creating non-traditional bundles, meaning that, instead of bundles of cable channels (your local cable company/satellite provider), audiovisual content (Netflix, etc.), or music (Spotify, Pandora, etc.) we’re talking about different types of content rolled into one diverse package, er, bundle.
Down the road, he predicts that Amazon and YouTube will add things like games and live sports to the mix. He also believes that others will enter the market, particularly mobile phone carriers. (And actually, Verizon Wireless has already started down that road with Go90.) Let’s connect the rest of those dots with the two words that are driving the new bundling: media convergence.
If you like reading my thoughts on the future of media and entertainment, you’ll also be reasonably fond of the book I’ve written. Better still, you’ve got a few days to get it for free.
Yep, unlike my cousin Abbie Hoffman, who I’m not related to in any way that I’m aware of, you don’t have to steal my book. You can download it for the low, low cost of absolutely nothing through this Sunday, February 21st. (After that, it’s a wallet-draining $2.99, which is the price that Kindle Direct Publishing not-so-subtly suggested I attach to this world-changing tome, and who am I to argue with an algorithm created by Jeff Bezos’ minions?)
The bottom line is that, while I’m certainly looking forward to the tens of dollars that may well come my way thanks to this nifty creation, I’m a lot more interested in having you read what’s inside and, hopefully, pass it on to others as well.
You can find the book at http://goo.gl/dxnrLr.