By Austin Short
Media companies are coming to a crossroads. The formula of making money based on subscriptions and ad revenue is becoming old and stale. While some major media contributors can survive that way, others are looking for new ways to stay afloat. So where in all of this can media startups fit in?
Startups have to first think of what void their company will fill. Paul Graham’s article starts by saying that we should look to fix problems that we come across ourselves. To me this seems like excellent advice because if you find come across a problem in your everyday life you may be sparked by the problem. The speed bump you encounter could drive you towards a terrific idea that many others deal with.
Of course it is essential that the problem you are looking to solve is in fact an issue for others. It is also important that your solution to the problem is easily adoptable. If you have a solution that receives little fanfare and isn’t interesting to others, you are doomed from the start. Graham notes that you must have at least a small group of adopters that are really psyched about the idea. If a few people adopt the idea then others may see the light sooner rather than later. These things can often pick up quickly if they have a small group of supporters to get the idea off of its feet.
I think Graham’s explanation of how to come up with good ideas is fascinating. He mentions living in the future, which seems like a philosophy straight out of a movie. I think by this he generally means that we need to see where things are going before they happen and while they are developing. He also mentions looking for the obvious that hasn’t been noticed. That may seem counter-intuitive but the good ideas are ones that can solve problems for a lot of people. It’s all about filling that gap.
The Nieman Report had an interesting analysis of market research. They noted that companies like Apple and Sony often don’t listen to some of that research because they have such faith in leading people to products that they want. “Our plan is to lead the public with new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want. The public does not know what is possible, but we do,” said Akio Morito, co-founder of Sony.
My last observation of the Nieman Report was what they had to say about Forbes. Forbes has taken a strength in numbers approach to their workforce. Their editors handle over a 1,000 contributors, from authors, bloggers, experts and many more. They all focus on their specific area of expertise. With this huge network of contributors, Forbes was able to crank out over 100,000 posts last year. That is truly incredible and a unique set up that is only possible with the sort of infrastructure that Forbes has.