Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remember that big gap between the Internet users and non-users? Well, the same gap may be appearing again

Nothing used to be more frustrating to me than trying to explain "The Internet" to some of my media bosses back in the middle-nineties. I think we didn't even use the word "Internet", instead we talked about "online" versus "offline".

Now I sense the same divide occurring with media executives, and especially with some media consultants. I just turned off an online video chat with some tech writers and a media guy which was sadly disheartening. The two folks representing tech were going on and on about the new iPad 2, the magnetic cover, while the the media guy really had nothing to contribute to the conversation. But worse, it was clear he didn't know a damn thing about iPads and iOS -- and this guy is giving advice to newspaper companies! Yikes.
Back in 1995 I remember trying to explain the concept of search engines, and the size of the web. Coming from San Francisco I was a huge advocate for online (and obviously still am), but trying to explain incredible growth of the web was hard when the entire concept seemed foreign. What does it mean that there are hundreds, then thousands, then millions of page of web content on a certain subject when the other person has never even seen a web page?

Now we have executives that may know that the iPad, or iOS or Android exists, but having never opened a media app up for themselves find it hard to understand how the new technology is changing the reading habits of their own, and soon to be former, readers.

Ultimately, having been at both newspaper and magazine companies, as well as at new media start-ups, the gap between in knowledge between both segments is often enormous -- but the same is true for the people these executives listen to. If you are unfamiliar with the app approval process, having never used the NYTimes or The Daily app yourself, and the person you listen to for advice doesn't own any tablet, what will your reaction be when your advisor says about app development "some day, some day, but you can wait"?