Thursday, June 01, 2006

New World, Old Media

I had a chat with a friend yesterday, and while listening to her talk about how demotivated some of the people she has to work with have become, I asked "ah, so it's old media trying to understand new media?" Bingo. And here I was thinking this was such a 1998 topic, with this new thing called the "Internet" scaring the media giants about their control of our eyeballs.

So in short, nothing has really changed. The media giants are still thinking that they do not have to compete for our attention, and the Internet is a distraction to their lofty goals. On the way there, they see having an Internet presence as a "cost center" while salivating over the kind of business that Amazon and company do. I suppose the iTunes juggernaut has done something to change their perspective on new ideas being all-bad, although then they tried to choke that golden goose in an effort for it to lay even more eggs.

Ah, yes, iTunes. Finally, something has made DRM palatable for the unwashed masses. Or, they don't know it's there. Success either way. I personally object to the way it snarfs up your MP3 collection, converts it into some other format, and applies DRM, even just only the number of times a playlist can be burned. Even to music I myself recorded. Thanks, but no thanks.

I am sure the irony is lost on nobody that the recording giants just returned to making record profits (pun not intended), most likely because their music sucked less last year than it did the year before. Ssssh - those losses were due to piracy. I find it interesting that most of my mp3-hoarding friends are also the most CD-hoarding people I know. They'll pull down an mp3, listen to it, and because they want to sound nice on their super-duper headphones, go out and get the CD. Repeatedly. Of course, they are criminals, as their downloading that initial mp3 and then NOT buying the CD cuts into profits. From the record industry's perspective, the consumer must like what they're given, or the losses are due to piracy.

Lest I digress, this post is about my dear friend lamenting how people whom she thinks are competent are having the life sucked out of them. On that subject, I tripped over a couple of cool blogs and sites:

Escape from Cubicle Nation has two interesting posts:

Open Letter to CXO's and the same to the Cubicle Serfs.

Of course, the discussion would not be complete on either topic without a link to Cluetrain.

I think the point is for corporate leaders to be reasonable. Working people to the point of exhaustion all the time is usually counter-productive. Execs tend to focus more on capital costs than on operating costs for equipment, but their idea of an employee is that they are an operating cost too. Bzzzt. Wrong. An employee can also bring profit, either in reducing operating costs elsewhere ("Look, add this index in this database here and queries take a half-second compared to twenty minutes. Now the customer support reps don't have to twiddle their thumbs as long."), or by direct action, as in either retaining or getting more customers. It all depends on how you structure it, but the guarantee is that at the end of a 16 hour shift, retaining that customer is the last thing on that person's mind.

The other fallacy is that replacing people is easy, and in fact cheaper because they won't be able to take vacation for the first couple of months. It can be, if you're talking about people to man your deep-fat-fryer. In the technology industry, there is so much that walks out the door with that person that the soft costs easliy add up to a significant percentage of that employee's salary. Strangely, the people who say replacing people is easy are also the first who are hugely offended when someone hands in notice. Hm.

From the cube-worker end, standing up for yourself can also go a long way. Of course, you run the risk of getting fired. But how about investing in yourself so that when you go to a new job elsewhere you won't be in the same position? How about learning about how things work at a level above yourself, so you can talk about it intelligently in the next job interview? I know, it's hard when you're working 10 or 12 hour days.


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