My Advice: Kill Things

As Budget Season Nears, Media Execs Need to Make the Tough Calls; Nothing Lasts Forever

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For kids, this is right about the time their enjoyment of summer is dampened a bit by the knowledge that their freedom will soon be curtailed as they return to long days in the classroom. For media execs on a calendar year, mid-August brings a similar sense of dread: It's almost budget season.

If you haven't yet received budget guidelines from the bean counters, you're waiting for them to hit your desk. Soon, we will all be making numbers up in the hope that our forecasts will come close enough to reality to let us keep our jobs.

This year, I have some advice for media companies as they plot out 2008: Kill things. Mercilessly. Fold them, shut them down. Time to cut funding of that vanity project you've been trying to make work for far too long. Time to admit that spinoff was badly conceived and will never turn a profit, that launch badly executed or that tired property too weak to stand on its own. We in the media are simply too sentimental at a time when we need to be a bit more ruthless. It's ok for media products to have natural life cycles; they're not all meant to live forever. TV programmers know this, but they're about the only ones.

The reinvention of business models for the biggest moneymakers and properties with real potential requires focus: of resources, brains, cash. We all know which side projects and money-losers are distractions, and we can't afford distractions right now. I'm not saying companies should shut down anything that's in the red; that would be ludicrous. Investment in new ideas is crucial. I'm saying it's time to put aside emotions on the ventures you know aren't going anywhere and make the hard calls. Put them out of their misery, and focus your energies on the trains that can fly.

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