The Year The Media Died

Don McLean: American Pie

Don McLean: American Pie

Why are so many Old Media giants dying… or dead?

Mad Avenue Blues offers one explanation—in song. (See the music video, below.) It’s the creation of L. McDuff (a pen name), who sings his rhyming analysis to the tune of Don McLean’s American Pie, that enigmatic folk rock ballad from 1971. (Why was the Chevy at the levee, anyway? And why was the levee dry? The mysteries live on.)

McDuff’s basic message: If you run a media company that’s dependent on advertising revenue, then the digital revolution is shattering your business.

But what if you were the leader of a media-making Society that didn’t need the ads? What if you and your community could survive, or thrive, on just your Society’s annual membership dues? (Those dues are what the National Geographic Society was once built upon.)

Here’s what would happen: Advertisers would no longer hold your fate in their hands; and digital technology could be empowering your Society’s (latent) social network instead of eviscerating your business.

Sustaining a dues-based community, though, is a real challenge. It makes big demands on the Society’s loudest voice—the Editor of its official journal. He (or she) must inspire and lead. He (or she) must offer value now and a compelling vision of the road ahead that persuades people to keep paying those dues. Most of all, the Editor must talk about our Society as if membership really mattered.

Otherwise, you’re stuck singing McDuff’s sad refrain. It’s about an advertising salesman who “… pitched my client who was pliant, but the pitch didn’t fly; and old ad boys were drinking martinis dry, singing ‘Tech has taken us for a ride’….”

Tech is killing ad-driven media businesses. But it can also empower a community.

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.