Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Publishing Brain Drain

Publishing Brain Drain
By Alan Mutter

As if the mainstream media didn't have enough trouble navigating the uncharted realm of digital innovation, they are losing many of the young, technologically astute employees who could be their guides.

"What am I doing here?" a talented young designer and programmer working at a publishing company asked me recently. "These guys don't get it. I've got to get out. I'm just wasting my time."

Like the others quoted in this article, the young journalist is not being named, so as to protect his livelihood until he bails out of his MSM job.

He summed up the frustration of the twenty- and thirty-something professionals who grew upMedia 3.0 with a keyboard at their fingertips and an iPod, or at least a Walkman, plugged in their ears. They use modern media the way their generation does, not the way their fifty-something bosses wish they would.

But the young net natives, for the most part, rank too low in the organizations that employ them to be invited to the pivotal discussions determining the stratgeic initiatives that could help their employers sustain their franchises.

"In most organizations, the people with the most online experience have the least political capital," said one mid-level online editor at a newspaper. "It seems like the pace of change inside media is slowing, tied up in politics and lack of expertise in managing technical projects - while the pace of change is continuing apace outside our windows."

Members of the wired generation say the process, bureaucracy and caution common to most media companies steals spontaneity and edginess away from ideas that could be appealing to their peers.

"Management is more concerned about who owns the change than they are about creating change," said the online newspaper editor. "I hear people wail about journalism, when most of their arguments aren't about journalism but about their own job security and, more importantly, egos."

Adding insult to injury, the net natives say they sometimes are pulled off promising projects to work on watered-down ideas that, in their opinion, won't be successful. "I can innovate 10 times faster than any journalism organization," said an online editor.

While the above comments may be, in part, a common reflection of generational impatience, these concerns take on new urgency at a time when most available data tell us that young people are consuming media in completely different ways than prior generations.

As but one example, consumers aged 13 to 24 narrowly favor user-generated media (blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Flckr and the like) over content created by the traditional media, according to recent research from Deloitte & Touche (see table below).

"I don't understand or like the media," said the online newspaper editor who's planning his exit. "Blogging has shown me that I don't really need the guys that own the presses anymore. I'll probably stay in journalism, but I can't wait to get out of the media."

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