Why today’s media needs to modernize or face oblivion – Martin Sorrell > Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun

“… media needs to modernize or face oblivion” Martin Sorrell – Inside the 2010 Olympics” http://ow.ly/ubEn by @olympicreporter #TNMH

[note reposted here in full from archived link for historical reference]



COPENHAGEN – I listened to an electrifying speech today by Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency by revenue, in which he left no doubt that the traditional media models are, if not dead now, certainly in their death throes. At least as far as he’s concerned.

I’m not suggesting that newspapers or television are no longer viable or that we are not doing our jobs well.

But if what Sorrell says is true, the digital revolution (or as Alon Marcovici, the vice-president of digital media for CTV says, “digital evolution”) poses both horrendous and magnificent futures for us.
Sorrell gave the keynote address at the just-concluded Olympic Congress in which  he talked about how the digital revolution/evolution will affect the Olympic movement. But as I sat there in the cavernous conference hall in the Bella Center, I couldn’t help think he was talking directly to me, and about my chosen profession.

I’m an old print hand. Started out on a typewriter in a hot metal job shop before computers were involved in the print industry. My desk drawers are filled with old tape recorders that grew smaller as they grew newer. I watched as cell phones went from bricks to business cards. I remember in the early-1990s an editor being briefed on the first generation of the web and email and asking “yes, that’s all nice but how will it affect us?” Did my first investigative database project on an old IBM  XT with a 5-1/4 inch floppy and no hard drive.

And from there, watched as the internet, cell phones, digital technology and this new-fangled “social networking” unalterably changed my life. I’m something of a convert; I have a Twitter account (Olympicreporter). I have a Facebook page. I have, as you know, a blog. I have an online bookstore. I have Skype, a YouTube account, a Flip video camera, and was probably the first reporter at The Vancouver Sun to use a digital tape recorder many years ago.

And yet I feel like an enormously old dinosaur when I listen to what Sorrell has to say about our future. If he is correct, and I’ve no doubt that he is, we in the media can no longer satisfy our readers with the conventional way we deliver news.

At the Sun we’ve been trying to move strongly into the digital news-social networking world. We no longer hold most stories overnight for publication; if it’s happening now, it goes online now, and we carry the print edition for our devoted traditional readers. Some of my other colleagues are regularly doing podcasts and videos. I’ve not yet been able to find all the time in the world to do that.

And yet, Sorrell says that’s not enough. If I’m not “interacting” with my readership, if I am not letting them play with my assets (his words) then I risk becoming irrelevant.

I wished that every executive of every traditional media company was there to hear hims. Such bright promise for us, but at the cost of leaving behind so many of our old concepts about what we do.

If I’m going to tantalize with these comments, you should at least be able to listen or read Sorrell’s speech. The IOC didn’t provide an audio recording of it, but you can see it livestreaming on the Olympic website. (Go to the video titled “Digital Revolution”.)

Here’s an electronic copy of his speech, along with a PDF of accompanying on-screen images and tables

(Yes, there is an irony at play that this blog software is frankly inadequate enough to deliver to you interactive options in the form you would like.)