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It's Not About Your Brand; It's About Your Customer

Sorry, but We've Got to Redraw the Model One More Time

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The first step in the transformation of the legacy media model was for media owners to take the distribution platform out of the center of how they defined themselves and replace it with the brand. ESPN (the gold standard of this model) is not a TV network, but a brand, and that brand expresses itself through a TV network, a magazine, radio programming, a Web site, a mobile service, and so on.

I hate to say it, but we need to re-draw the wheel one more time. This time, take the brand out of the center spot and replace it with your customers—audience and advertisers. Yes, media products should still think of themselves as brands, but everything they do needs to be organized around serving the customer, and the only way to create a truly customer-focused operation (rather than just mouthing the words) is to start at the core and build out. Sometimes the best first step is simply to draw a diagram of the model and share it with your organization. "You become what you say you are," a savvy publishing-industry chieftain said during a recent lunch with me and my management team.

Two recent restructurings, one on the buy side (at Carat) and one on the sell side (at the WSJ) are steps in that direction. No surprise that the guy leading the charge at the Journal comes out of ESPN.

Whether they succeed depends on how well the plans are executed. But both companies are focusing on a new model that isn't about embracing a particular platform or serving an internal need, but on how best to serve their customers.

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