Thursday, July 5, 2012

Greece, New Media, the view from abroad

Well, that was fun: two weeks without having to face a blank screen, wondering what to write, not checking the App Store every hour for new media apps, never once reading a tech site for the latest rumor about Apple (they are all the same anyways).

One is tempted to return with quickly formed conclusions that probably will prove false in the end, to think you have some unique answers to issues that are dogging a nation, an industry, a people. But ...

The iPad

If you've travelled anywhere by airplane lately you know that the the iPad is the tablet of choice of both business and casual travelers like. But travelling abroad one is struck by just how dominate Apple's iPad really is.

Finding a visitor powering up a PC is now so rare that I felt like asking the user why they still bother bringing that ol' device along. The exception to this seems to be the MacBook. Travelling does reinforce the notion that buying Cisco stock instead of Apple in 2002 was a life changing mistake.

ProtoThema's iPad replica.
But in two weeks in Greece I don't remember anyone reading a Condé Nast magazine, or a digital newspaper on their tablets. I know I shouldn't draw too much of a conclusion about this, but I found it strange, and more than a little disconcerting.

But, as always, when I see evidence of the success of the iPad, or read the sales figures, I inevitably get angry. The media consultants who dominate our industry were so sure the iPad was a useless new device that they stuck their necks out a mile to proclaim it a failure. Yet, just like those who sold us on the Iraq war, you can't get rid of these so-called experts. These gurus continue to get a platform in newspapers and on television to tell us all about the future of the media world. The Guardian and others quote them, put them on stage at their events, and ultimately promote them as the experts in digital media.

They are not, they are clowns and self promoters.

Media Owners

I spoke to a number of professionals inside the Greek media world who are huge advocates of the new digital platforms. Their frustrations with the slow pace of change was obvious. But, really, are things really that different in Greece?

What is different is the pace of change. While I may decry the slow pace of change in the U.S. media world, the perspective from Greece is that the media world is evolving quickly and Western Europe and North America are miles ahead.

But media owners are the same the world over: too conservative to invest in their futures until such a time when panic sets in. In Greece, few newspapers or magazines have launched interesting digital editions. But then again the typical newsstand is filled with print newspapers that far outnumber a similar newsstand in the U.S. While one can get the NYT or USA Today at any airport newsstand in the States, dozens and dozens of choices are available at the same newsstand in Greece.

I'd like to be optimistic and think that with the diversity of media choices still available surely one of these companies will lead the charge in digital – i.e. tablet – development. The talent to lead such an evolution is clearly available at home in Greece. All that is necessary is vision and bold leadership.

Things move slowly, quickly

You would think that that in our 24/7 media world that one can't escape for two weeks without missing something. But I feel like I missed nothing by being away – at least nothing important.

What is the talk on the tech websites today? Rumors of a 7-inch iPad. Geez, wasn't that what was leading the news a year ago? And what are sources for these rumors? Asian websites. 'Nuff said.

I don't really doubt that Apple may launch a smaller tablet, I just doubt that an old rumor is really what one should be reporting unless they have something concrete to report on.

As for the rest of the news, well, we're still fighting over austerity aren't we? As one Greek media observer said to me "we in Europe are playing Russian roulette with our economies and now it seems the U.S. wants to get into the game, too."

Starting Monday I will be writing one post a day on my trip abroad, if only to get it out of my system. I hope you don't find them irrelevant, or worse, boring.