Others have written decent summaries on what happened at Media 2020, a conference on the future of media in Ireland that was run by Media Contact in Croke Park Conference Centre yesterday. Blathnaid Healy has a blog summary using Twitter hastags [clever methinks] and Fin O’Reilly has an interesting round-up too. I wanted to add some thoughts on three things, one that struck me while I was listening to speakers and the others that became obvious as I digested the event.
we are behind our competitors
The first thought is that we are quite a ways behind our competitors. This became obvious when BBC Backstage producer Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) spoke. He had tried just about everything Irish media companies were thinking of or had just launched.
This came to a comical head when one of the mythic future techs mentioned, QR Codes, came up for discussion on a panel. He mentioned an experiment that the BBC had done in a zoo using, QR Codes, and almost casually mentioned that it was three years ago. I had a good laugh at that. Matt Locke (@mattlock) from Channel Four hit some similar notes too as did Jonathon Moore (@moorej) from Guardian Media.
The import of this was obvious to me. Ireland is behind other countries in digital change. As the world becomes more digital, our competitors become more global. Irish media companies need to start experimenting quickly and following the lessons learned elsewhere. They have an opportunity to jump ahead but I’d caution them to wait just a moment before they do.
no-one seems to have a coherent strategy
It was something of a relief coming from a seemingly rudderless publishing industry, to see that pretty much all content and media firms are as clueless about the future as publishers are. They are all distracted by the shiny toys, all entranced by the lure of easy profits in apps and downloads and all besotted with copyright protection and forcing the reader or the advertiser to adapt to their advantage.
The BBC, if I read their thinking correctly, at least seemed content to let innovation find a way forward but were not pushing for that to happen any time soon, The Guardian’s vaunted digital plan is at least clear, but I’m not certain it offers much more than a hope that their gamble on openness will be rewarded. They at least have not flip-flopped from tactic to tactics in the hope of stumbling upon a strategy by accident as others have.
It seems to me that following the trend is not the way forward. So experimentation is definitely a good idea, but with clear purpose and forceful reasoning.
where was book publishing?
There was not one speaker from book publishing and looking down the list of attendees, the closest one gets to a book publisher was me, Eason who had a representative and one or two PR Agencies that have been known to handle book publicity.
On the one hand it is a shame that the book publishers did not see the need to attend and on the other it says a lot about the perception of book publishing in Ireland that the organisers felt no need to include someone to speak to that market.
While much of the day did not specifically mention or reference books, there was so much potential on display for creators of quality content and new ways of thinking about content that not attending seems to me to have been a poor choice for book publishers.
I enjoyed the conference enormously and came away feeling refreshed and happy that there were people thinking deeply about digital change in Ireland, surprised that so many people hadn’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto and impressed by the openness to social media at the Abbey Theatre (@abbeytheatre) as traditional an icon of Ireland as they come.
Disclosure: I was given a free ticket for the conference by Media Contact after I retweeted a promotional tweet.