Questions in Air at Allen and Co. Media Summit

I just wonder, after years of feting MySpace and Facebook and Twitter, whether the media industry’s largest companies and their investment bankers will realize that most Web 2.0 entities are muddled fringe players.

The next well-hyped social-networking site probably isn’t the prescription for all that ails the media industry, which admittedly needs to think carefully about the creative and not-so-creative destruction that technological innovation has wrought.

Such introspection and deliberation, however, are unlikely to lead to acquisitions of dodgy startup companies that have no idea how to generate revenue or profits.

The big media companies — most of them, anyway — still possess brands that have greater commercial value than anything a Web 2.0 startup could bring to the table. In most instances, the ideas and technologies behind those web startups are not patentable intellectual properties. Barriers to entry are minimal, and sustainable technological advantage usually isn’t a practical consideration.

The solutions to many of big media’s problems can’t be bought from boutique investment bank. Media’s titans need to think through their dilemmas, realistically look ahead at how demographics and technological evolution will continue to roil their once-peacebale waters, and then devise practical strategies that leverage their brands and partnerships to best effect.

They can remedy at least some of the problems they created for themselves. They don’t need to throw money at media neophytes who will bring a different set of problems along with them.


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