Monday, April 19, 2010


Media executives around the globe are clamoring for new and alternative business models and industry associations everywhere are holding seminars and conferences on how to create and discover them. There is just one problem: They don’t know what business models are.

When you cut through the rhetoric, you find that most executives are merely interested in finding new revenue streams. Even when you consider firms touted as having best practices in that regard, none have been very successful in establishing them. The reason is simple: The dominant thought about business models is highly limited and far too narrow to solve the contemporary challenges of media industries.

Business models are not merely about the revenue streams. Instead, they establish the underlying business logic and elements. They involve the foundations upon which businesses built, such as companies’ competences, value created, products/services provided, customers served, relationships established with customers and partner firms, and the operational requirements. If you get those elements right, the revenue issues take care of themselves.

The biggest problem of media business models today is not that the revenue model is diminishing in effectiveness, but that most media companies are still trying to sell nineteenth and twentieth century products in the twenty-first century. And they are trying to do so without changing the value they provide and the relationships within which they are provided.

Because of the enormous changes in technology, economics, and lifestyle in recent decades, the needs of customers have changed, they kinds of content they want, and the ways they obtain news, information, and entertainment have been dramatically altered. If media firms do not address these changes in consumer needs and behavior, no amount of worry about revenue streams will stem the fundamental challenge that audiences are leaving traditional print and broadcast media behind for content providers and distribution platforms that better serve their needs.

The content of traditional media products were created in specific technical, economic, and information environments that no longer exist. In order to evolve and prosper media companies must revisit the foundations of their businesses, ensure they are providing the central value that customers want, and provide their products/services in a unique or different way from other media firms.

The range of technologies and distribution and interactive platforms available in the twenty-first century require that firms increasingly see their business activities as cooperative processes requiring coordination and interdependence with external firms and customers themselves. Standing isolated and alone—at arms distance from the customer—is no longer a viable option.

This is not to say that firms must make sudden and dramatic changes in their business models, but they must start revisiting all the aspects to make regular incremental improvements and changes. Questions need to be asked about what is provided, why it is provided, how it is provided, and the entire structures and operations of firms. These need to be addressed first, then the revenue models can be sorted out and improved.