Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Blend

One of the really special things about the holiday season in my town is the concert put on each year by the high school music department. They held the 75th annual one over the weekend and it was great. It also offered us an instructive business point as well.

Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco (Guadalajara...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The school’s band, orchestra, chorale, and choir all perform. While I never played in the orchestra, I did play in my school’s band (saxophone, thanks for asking) and I sang in the choir. When I go to concerts of this sort, I always listen for the one thing my conductors used to emphasize: the blend. If you’ve ever gone to a school concert, inevitably you hear the voice or playing of a really talented kid above all the others. That’s exactly what you don’t want to hear, because it has the effect of distorting the overall sound.  Really wonderful musical groups sing and play as one instrument.  Every component of that instrument is in sync – on exactly the same beat with exactly the same dynamics.  It’s the conductor‘s responsibility to make that happen. I recall how when our musical groups were doing extremely well in rehearsal, the conductor would often walk to the back of the auditorium and listen.  We were all working together so well that we really didn’t need to be lead.

Like that conductor, a great manager needs to be able to make the blend happen.  We need to let individuals sing their parts loudly, but we have to blend all of those parts together in a single, overarching product that’s our brand presented as one. Without the blend, it’s just a cacophony.  It’s not just within your own unit either.  The blending across departments is critical today more than ever.  As an example, think about how marketing and tech have become so totally intertwined. The Chief Marketing Officer must blend with the Chief Technical Officer in a seamless duet or the organization is absolutely not going to sound right.

The next time you hear some live music, listen for the blend and think of your company.  Are you putting out a unified sound that’s greater than the sum of its parts, or does the world hear a lot of strong pieces that are disjointed and not pleasing to the ear?


Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Uncategorized

Bad Corn

It’s Foodie Friday! With the new season of Top Chef in full swing, I thought I’d use something that happened on last night’s episode as our topic this week. If you’re a fan of the series and have not yet watched the latest episode, mild spoiler alert!

Public relations of high-fructose corn syrup

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The chef who was eliminated last night made a dish that contained a corn and chorizo hash as an accompaniment to the protein, shrimp. When facing the judges, the question was raised why she chose to cook the corn. The judges thought that some crisp, cool corn would have complemented the shrimp, which was served outdoors (on a golf course!) in the heat. The chef’s reply was that the raw corn seemed overly starchy and she didn’t think it would have been any better raw than cooked. Her hope was that cooking would transform some of the starch. She was then asked the obvious question: why use the corn at all if you weren’t happy with the quality of the ingredient? Which raises our business point.

We often get handed inferior ingredients in business.  These can range from the dead weight employee who is unmotivated and less skilled to the messy financial plan.  The right answer isn’t always “let’s see what we can make out of this.”  Sometimes we need to find different ingredients or change our initial plan for the ones we have.  We get into trouble when we plow ahead, inflexible and wearing blinders.  Markets change, consumer tastes change, and stuff happens.  That doesn’t mean we should constantly be changing course, but it does mean that subtle adjustments are as much an ongoing part of business as tasting and seasoning is a constant part of cooking.

I rarely go to the market with a complete list.  I like to see what looks good with a general plan in mind about what I feel like cooking.  I try to approach business the same way – have a plan, but find the best ingredients and be ready to adjust.  I mean, who wants to pack their knives and go based on a bad piece of corn?

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, food, Helpful Hints

Charging Facebook

I’m a believer in things repeating themselves in business, even if they take slightly altered forms or use up to date technology.  It’s an offshoot of my mantra about not confusing the business with the tools, I guess.  In any event, I got to thinking about a tidbit I picked up while going through my news feeds the other day.  It turns out according to SimpleReach, a distribution analytics company, referral traffic to the top 30 Facebook publishers  plunged 32 percent from January to October. Among the top 10, the drop was 42.7 percent.  The drop was confirmed by other analytics sources as well.  This, of course, got me thinking about cable operators and television networks.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like a cable system, a social network is a big, empty pipe.  It creates a method for distribution and little else.  All of the innovation at a social network is focused on improving that distribution and not on the content.  Back when the web started, publishers plugged right into the web and promoted like crazy to get “viewership.”  What Facebook and other social networks (read that as gatekeepers) have done is to take over much of the traffic creation.  This is exactly what happened when the world shifted from over the air broadcasting to cable, but there as a big difference.

In two words: affiliate fees.  This is compensation paid by the operators to the program providers.  It can run from pennies per home to $7+.  That’s per home, per month.  It’s a pretty strong reason why most “TV” content is only available with the blessing of a cable carrier (TV Everywhere).  Why would the publishers (content providers, a.k.a. TV nets) want to disrupt that business model, especially when the can supplement those dollars with ad revenues?

Back to Facebook.  Publishers spent several years building content islands on Facebook, only to have Facebook revamp their algorithm and sent less traffic.  The problem is this:

With social media driving over 30 percent of all traffic to publisher websites and Facebook delivering 75 percent of that social traffic, no publisher, from BuzzFeed to The New York Times Company, can afford to skip using Facebook as a means to promote its content.That gives increasing leverage to Facebook, which is able to greatly influence the prominence and visibility of publishers’ articles in the News Feed of its users.

So here is a prediction, one that might not happen for a couple of years, but one that I think, based on the history of cable TV, will occur eventually.  Content providers are going to charge Facebook.  I’m not talking about sharing ad revenues; I mean the digital equivalent of affiliate fees.  Someone will bite the bullet – a big guy like the Times or HuffPo or maybe BuzzFeed – and tell Facebook to pay up.  Maybe they will take technical measures to prevent their content from being shared there but they won’t publish it themselves.  One publisher gone is not a big deal.  Many publishers gone means an empty pipe, and that means fewer users and fewer ads sold for Facebook.

What do you think?

Leave a comment

Filed under digital media, Thinking Aloud