disruption, Polly Anna & you
there seems to be a love of cynicism in this town, and i’m not talking about the healthy cynicism that keeps you from going into business with somebody who gives you the willies. i’m talking about this sarcastic, sometimes hurtful cynicism that seems joyful while tearing apart the work of some famous person or even the work of some imperfect, but prolific person you might know – while you’re not really doing anything yourself. it’s a flavor of cynicism that smells a LOT like jealousy in fact. you can feel it in the air and hear the little quips as the credits roll while you’re leaving a theater after a movie.
what’s weird is that i actually like to consider myself a cynic, particularly when somebody tells you they’re going to do something for you or give you something. i don’t like to plan on using something or spending something i don’t actually have and i consider THAT healthy, but when it comes to certain industry changes and opportunities i’m sick of people treating me like i’m Polly Anna.
here’s an example: i was at a Seed & Spark event Wednesday night and got into an interesting conversation with Noah Nelson from Turnstyle News. i know Noah from the Transmedia LA Meetup Group that my friend Hal Hefner is now running and Noah and i have crossed paths a number of times on a variety of projects (it’s funny how small this town is once you’re in the mix, but i digress). Noah and i were speaking with Dana Harris from Indiewire about the ramifications of the 2011 Jobs Bill – particularly the way it’s supposed to loosen regulations so as to allow crowd-funding sites to become crowd-investing sites. Noah was pooh-poohing the expectations of this rules change basically saying the effect would be minimal at best. if you’ve been watching our podcast at all, you probably know that i think the rules changes will be massive. i know it might be a little optimistic to say that these changes will be revolutionary, but they absolutely could. in fact, i see very solid reasons to predict that they will be – that contain the potential of taking the massive income growth we’ve been witnessing the past few years throughout the highest income earners in our country and spreading that income growth amongst the entirety of the U.S. middle class. that’s the potential of something like this. it’s innovative and disruptive and could be massive.
to be clear, i’m not saying Noah is a jealous person or that he’s not doing stuff, but i do believe that his brand of cynicism seems common amongst journalists i know – the fear of being wrong, and in particular the fear of not being taken seriously. it seems to require an inordinate amount of courage in this day and age to put yourself out there as a predictor of good things – particularly amongst journalists and pundits. i don’t know why that is, but it just seems more socially acceptable to be wrong about a prediction of something bad than to be wrong about something good. i don’t know what that’s about, but that tendency doesn’t seem to me to be healthy or even any more accurate than the opposite.
i don’t happen to share those concerns. so i seem to be looked at as a bit of a Polly Anna and though it doesn’t bother me, i do notice it. i just think that that whichever way some development goes, you might as well be optimistically realistic, but i don’t think i’m wrong any more than anybody else. when Netflix started to put Blockbuster out of business, i was ecstatic. i LOVE disruption. i’m an enormous fan of it. i know it’s not always good for everybody. the iPhone wasn’t good news for Blackberrys back in 2007, and it doesn’t really seem to me that Blackberrys have done enough to retain their market share. also, since Google put their new Chromecast on the market, the Roku could be in serious trouble. Roku didn’t do anything to hurt anybody, but once upon a time they were the disruptor themselves!
i often think of a conversation Kendall and i had with a cable TV exec several years ago during which he told us that there was basically no future for viewing media online. i’m can’t remember his exact words, but i’m fairly certain he was saying that just that – that the internet would never compete with the television. i watch “House of Cards” today – and i witness HBO first saying they will NEVER sell HBOGo ala carte but change that “Never” to a “not yet” a few months go – i see all this and i don’t feel like i’m Polly Anna anymore.
the point i’m constantly trying to make is that no development is automatically good news for anybody, but if you understand the nuts and bolts of any particular development then you’re far more likely to turn it into lemonade than if you deny that the development is going to happen in the first place. so call me Polly Anna all you want yall! but don’t get mad at me when i’ve made the most of a particular disruptive event or development simply because i was willing to admit it was coming.