As we imagine what it will be like when we exit the pandemic, we really wonder what to expect from the digital transformation that has changed our understanding of work and safe lives. As much as we long for the days in the office and working with our colleagues, some are about the mental freedom that we gain from the constant interruption of private life. Parenthood has shifted from an arm’s length affair to therapeutic maintenance of burnout, news satiety, and fear – and that’s just us. In many ways, our children have already gone through the digital transformation that we all now have to endure.
They don’t see work from home as a choice because they have already defined how things work. Moving from meetings to asynchronous threads (SMS only, please) has led to a kind of binge streaming model. You don’t go to the movies – you examine the situation that the characters are grappling with. Conversations overlap in group chats, solve existing problems and give an idea of the next sentence. Overarching topics like what I’ll do in life and who my real friends are, vie for interaction time.
Voice calls are basically transactional. Video (FaceTime) is used for pitches and demos. And the flow is both ways. Our children want certainty, the feeling that smarter minds will prevail when we learn the rules of the new society. Parents also want the reassurance that they can balance the competing needs of children, grandparents, and the constant pressure of a notification grid of breaking news. Interruptions in this new environment are the single biggest cost of loss of concentration and decreased productivity.
Turning off notifications often causes more problems than it solves. They trade protection from the immediate crisis for a limited ability to respond to a wider one. Answers to the next question turn out to be more effective. A messaging layer’s permissions and posting privileges guide the flow of information, bubble up, and anticipate the overall value of the channel in followers and subscriptions. The patterns of social metadata – @mentions, retweets, private messages, likes – can be separated from the content to prioritize the distribution of threads.
The attraction of the creative economy and its emerging tools to disrupt traditional media is shifting from the private to the professional. Mom and pop businesses can offer sophisticated services to evangelize, market, and fund the growth of their products. Those same contours of personalization of notifications are becoming the precious data streaming monsters like Netflix that run their production and publishing businesses.
In this issue of the Gang, Frank Radice sees parallels for the first time with the television industry, which deals with the digital.
That was around the same time that NBC decided they needed to go digital. And we had this gigantic meeting in California with all the executives in a huge room with closed doors and nobody was allowed to have their phone with us so we could talk about what would be digital and what it would do and how we would use it and what we would get out of it would do. And in the end everyone went out and said, you know, we don’t understand anything about it, but I’m telling you we know we have to be there. And I think a lot started that way.
The problem with transforming industries is that collapsing business models are a difficult habit to give up. As Michael Markman recalls:
My friend Hardie Tankersley [colleague in the early days at Apple] predicted this a decade ago when he was working for Fox. And they said, ‘Yeah, we all know that. Just don’t bother us now. We’re still making money. ‘
This is the lesson record labels learned the hard way by waiting too long to absorb the Napster threat. Are newsletters and live streaming spearheading media companies to do the same?
Michael adds a warning:
Zuckerberg made his own version of this. He uses AR to make you feel like you are sitting at a conference table with a bunch of other people in the same room. And I remember my old days working for companies. That was the worst part of the job, sitting around a conference table with other people in the same room.
As the Beatles say, la-la-la-la life goes on.
the latest Gillmor Gang newsletter
The Gillmor Gang – Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live on Friday, August 20, 2021.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang
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