Super interesting! As I read your post I could not help but thinking if maybe the digitization trend requires publishers to re think the idea of what a “book” is. Many other content forms have undergone a transition as they moved from the physical to online. Before the internet, consumers read newspapers – however the majority of consumer time online is spent reading new native content formats such as blogs, medium posts and tweets. Is the idea of a 200+ page monolithic book past its prime? Should books be written as standalone chapters that themselves can be broken up, searched and sold just like an episode of TV on iTunes? Perhaps these new online “native” formats will empower the new direct to consumer distribution models you discussed.
Zach thanks for the thoughtful look at ESPN. It is super interesting how quickly ESPN turned from Disney’s white knight into it’s achilles heel. I am concerned about the long-term viability of ESPN given its significant fixed cost base given its massive sports rights deals and its declining revenue base as both subscribers and ratings tumble. Even the NFL is seeing ratings drops of over 20%!
I agree with both your suggestions, but want to build on the second one. I believe instead of a tentpole strategy – ESPN should pursue a “super fan” niche sports strategy in this new mobile direct to consumer world. (1) Rights for sports like Skiing, Speedskating, Gymnastics, etc. are much cheaper to acquire which will allow them to manage their cost base more effectively. (2) Leveraging their investment in BAM tech, they can build world-class direct to consumer products that are targeted toward each sports “superfans”. These “super fans” have a high willingness to pay – and will be more engaged in the content than the average fan is in the tentpole events.
Hi Jodie — Thanks for sharing! I think Disney along with the rest of “traditional media” are in a for a rough ride as they try to figure out how to build a sustainable model in the new direct-to-consumer world of online media. Disney is clearly trying to embrace this new world – however changing an organizational culture, particularly a creative one to dive head first into an undefined future is really difficult. As you pointed out the Maker deal is turning out to be a disaster – MCNs are turning out not to be the new beacon we all thought. That said, I applaud Disney for continuing to take big bets. The latest is a $400M investment in Vice Media and launch of the Viceland cable channel in lieu of History Channel 2. Candidly, I am not sure the Vice deal will pan out either, but one thing is for sure: the only thing we know will fail is if they do nothing!
Hi! This is a really interesting look into FB’s strategic advantages in the workplace vertical. I wonder whether Facebook for Work is actually at odds with Facebook’s core use case. At Facebook and many other Silicon Valley companies, employees liberally share information about their personal lives with each other. In these circumstances – extending Facebook into a work tool makes perfect sense! Everyone already has a Facebook, loaded with personal history, politics, interests, and photos. However, most of the American workforce is not so open with their colleagues, and prefer to leave “home at home.” I am worried that key criteria for FB Work adoption across the country relies on either a) Major cultural change in how people approach building work relationships or b) a major change in how they use Facebook. If they do “B,” I believe that means making profiles more private and sharing less personal information which negatively contribute to the same network effects that Facebook relies on to continue to grow as a platform.
Eric – Thanks for sharing! Disney has done an incredible job incorporating new technological advances into its experiences since inventing the modern day theme park in the 1950s. While the MyMagic+ band has revolutionized their both the customer experience and operating model at the park level, I believe that the real driver of success at Disney is their proprietary content. Specifically I wonder..
(1) How is digilitization changing content consumption patterns (especially for the park’s core demo of kids under 18 yo)
(2) How can Disney ensure that it’s existing content library (i.e. Mickey Mouse) remain iconic for this new mobile focused generation of children?
(3) How can Disney take advantage in platform shifts to create new IP to strengthen their library?
(4) How should they use their recently acquired Marvel and LucasFilm assets within the theme parks?
If you are up for a coffee I would love to brainstorm!
Hi Rebecca – Thanks for putting together a great post. I am heading to Iceland this week ʘ‿ʘ! Hearing about the growth of their tourism industry I cannot help but smile for the people of Iceland who have had a rough few decades.
I am not sure if you remember, but preceding our own recession in 2008, Iceland had their own implosion. The once sleepy fishing nation vaulted to global prominence as a financial center, whose three largest banks grew to 10x the size of the economy! Unfortunately much of the growth was too good to be true and the banks collapsed requiring an IMF bailout . Back to your post, I am hopeful that Iceland can be measured with how it manages the influx of tourism, their new “golden goose” so to speak. If they do not take a measured approach and deliberately protect their natural resources from both climate change and human degradation, the party may be short lived. I am hopeful that they will do the right thing and preserve Iceland for the long term so that my kids can too visit the Blue Lagoon and see the Northern Lights.
Hey Neil – Thanks for taking the time to dig into a different industry, I really enjoyed learning what goes on behind the scenes of all the “Hollywood” movies I know and love. That said, it is a bummer to hear how the industry is run. To me it is a great irony that big stars such as Leo DiCaprio, Emma Watson, Mark Ruffalo and other big stars stand up and endorse climate change initiatives , however these same stars never seem to turn the bright light on the mess in their own back yard. I hope they can begin to hold themselves accountable – and show that with some planning and creativity we can all accomplish the same professional goals without damaging the world we live in.
 ClimateRealityProject.com – Nine Celebrities Changing the Conversation on Climate Action
Hi Wis, Thanks for the post. Having skied Vail growing up it is both interesting and heart breaking to hear the effect climate change is having on their business. I think the most interesting piece is the ethical dilemma they face: Snowmaking may be the only way for them (in the short term at least) to cope with the reduced snowfall, however, their snowmaking is a carbon intensive activity that will exacerbate the very climate change that is killing them!
I was impressed to find that they are taking this seriously and are doing a number of things to offset and improve operations …
– They have invested in trying to make operations more efficient (i.e. sending food up via gondola rather than snowcat)
– Purchase renewable energy credits to offset their footprint
– Have over 20 managers directly responsible for conservation across the organization
 Aspen Journal: Growing Vail Resorts Works to Reduce Carbon Footprint – http://aspenjournalism.org/2013/12/17/growing-vail-resorts-works-to-reduce-carbon-footprint/
Seb! Thanks for the thoughtful perspective on Mont Sutton. As a skier myself I have watched climate change have a similar effect on my local mountain in Northern California. While I agree that artificial snow making is a great way to make the most of the below freezing days (increasing snow pack whenever possible), I worry that it does not solve the issue of general warming. For example – as winter temperatures move increasingly toward and above 0 degrees celsius, then what? Even artificial snow machines cannot make snow in these types of conditions.
One idea I had was to invest in summer mountain activities: alpine sliding, zip lining, hiking, climbing, etc. to try and create new revenue streams, smooth out the timing, and decrease the reliance on winter weather. What do you think? Would Canadian tourists be up for these sorts of summer mountain activities?
Hi N! Thanks for sharing Dearman’s innovation with us. I have to admit I remain a bit of a skeptic! My worry is about the other costs in this eco-system. In my past experience, I have found that often, improved technologies create more problems than they solve when including the externalities associated with them. The application to this circumstance would be to include the carbon and energy footprint of the entire value chain in the calculation, rather than just the emissions of the engine. Specifically I am wondering if all the costs of collecting, pressurizing, cooling, transporting and storing liquid Nitrogen are so severe that they undermine the zero-emission engine.
Happy to discuss more on twitter — find me @jzaslav 🙂