Friday, November 9, 2012

The Lean Media mindset: Can it work for large companies?

Since the failure of my first software startup and the early traction of my latest digital publishing venture, I've been thinking a lot about how to make successful media products in the digital age. I have come to believe that Lean methodologies used in software development can also be applied to media ... but require some modifications in order to accommodate certain characteristics of the media industry.

My thinking about Lean Media actually goes back to the 2000s, long before I even heard the term "Lean". In the 2000s, I was responsible for managing and developing new media products for large organizations -- Harvard University and IDG. One of my takeaways from these experiences was that small, independent teams with a willingness to rapidly create and develop content and new products (special feature, website, online community, etc.) could enjoy small successes as well as the occasional hit. Where these efforts suffered was in the follow-up ... responding to user feedback cycles and taking the nascent products to the next level. This was often an issue of insufficient resources, as well as directives from the center of the organization to concentrate efforts somewhere else.

In addition, I have observed that few traditional media companies are structured to operate in such a fashion. Even if the resources are available to prototype, the mandate to have an independent team work on these types of projects may not be there. Indeed, the idea of letting audiences see a raw, unfinished product may seem like heresy to executives obsessed with polished designs and powerful brands. The expectation for new products is they look and feel as professional and established as a big brand.

What I am trying to do now is develop a framework for Lean Media that both startups and large organizations can use for product development. My blog post titled "A proposal for a Lean Media Framework: Input and iteration required", describes how I am approaching the problem:

... When I started my second venture this summer, the ebook experiment, I pledged to myself that I would attempt to actively follow the Lean philosophy. Get products out to the marketplace as soon as possible. Measure. Iterate. Improve. Some of these processes were already ingrained, owing to my earlier experiences with rapid product development in the online media and music industries, as well as the mobile software startup, and my grad school experience, which emphasized iterative product development. But I was more methodical with measuring and incorporating feedback. I also paid a lot of attention to revenue, something that I had not been focused on with any previous venture or media experiment.

As the ebook venture progresses, my mind has been circling back to the inconsistencies I observed earlier. Yes, Lean methodologies do work for media content. They can lead to better products, and better sales. However, the Lean approach does not take into account important factors — such as brand and creative processes — that can determine the success or failure of media ventures.

Therefore, I believe there is an opportunity to build a new Lean framework that is specific to media ventures — a Lean “mod” for media, if you will. The goal of building a Lean Media Framework is to help startups and established companies build innovative products, platforms, and business models that have a higher chance of success and can contribute to new models of creation, distribution, and consumption.

If you are interested in helping me develop this idea, let's have a discussion. Feel free to leave comments below or contact me using the email address on this page.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I will review and approve comments as soon as possible, but spam, personal attacks, and rude messages will be deleted.