One of the several very stimulating conversations at the Future of Media event in Sydney/San Francisco this past week was on ‘The future of traditional and new media’, with Chris Anderson, Editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and John Hagel, consultant and author at the San Francisco side of the link.

In commenting on Chris Anderson’s Long Tail concept – the meme and the book – John Hagel talked about shelf space (I remember when this was a huge issue for the multimedia industry in the 90s, is it such a big issue in this more digital era?) and about the fact that we are now living in an age of ‘scarce attention’. With so much information available, we all have daily or even hourly challenges about where to focus our attention.

John distinguished three types of business in this new era:

  1. product innovation and commercialisation business
  2. infrastructure management business – high volume, routine processing
  3. customer relationship business – knowledge-based, value-adding

He observed that traditional media was mostly about the first in that list, product innovation and commercialisation and that, over time, media businesses need to move into the third type of business, customer relationship. The brand promise for this type of business is “I know you as an individual audience member better than anyone else does’.

John Hagel has a very illuminating post, commenting on Chris Anderson’s book, at his Edge Perspectives blog – see The Long Tail and the Structure of the Media Industry – and the post has implications beyond the ‘media industry’ for anyone wanting to do business online, or currently doing so. 

What really grabbed my attention was this comment in John’s post:

I hold that, in a long tail world, customer relationship businesses have an opportunity to create very powerful and scalable brands based on the proposition that they know individual audience members or customers better than anyone else and can be trusted to use that knowledge to become ever more helpful to the audience member or customer.

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