How To Destroy a New Media Company in Three Easy Steps

A disclaimer: The story I’m about to tell is true. The substantive facts relating to communication happened. In an effort to protect the guilty, the innocent, and my own backside, I’m changing or being intentionally vague about a lot of other contextual information. I’m not being inappropriate or unprofessional in what I’m telling you, I just don’t want to piss people off unnecessarily.

Working in the entertainment business is challenging. It’s one of those career paths you should choose only if you are so suck-a-licious at everything else that it’s the only avenue left to you. Seriously.

You fail more than you succeed. People higher on the food chain intentionally dump their chamber pot on your head and expect you to thank them for the honor. And, in the end, the stuff consumers actually get to see is more often than not total rubbish because those without a single creative synapse in their brains control money and what is released for viewing.

Despite all of this, there are folks crazy enough to engage this business. I’ve worked in sectors of it, been totally out of it, and have existed on the fringes of it most of my life. I can never seem to overcome one of my major stuckness bits to just dive in. But that’s not what this post is about.

What This Post is About

It’s a disaster observed. It’s a tremendous opportunity wasted. It’s sad enough to make me angry.

This story begins with a great idea. An executable, sustainable concept for an emerging entertainment project that was delivered in a whole new way. It was in a genre friendly to experimentation and new delivery methods. It involved several “names” from several different sectors of the entertainment world who, when combined, had an audience draw potential that was over-the-top tremendous.

They got together the money, the resources, and an incredibly engaged-before-there-was-a-freaking-product audience. Then they threw it all away.


Three. Easy. Steps.

1. Over Promise, Under Deliver

This step, in and of itself, does not spell doom. We all do this sometimes. But when you do it again and again and again without any sort of explanation, re-framed timetable, or any message other than, “Trust us, it’s coming soon!”, people quit trusting you and they go away. Enthusiasm cannot be sustained indefinitely. And once trust has been broken – truly broken – future communication is viewed skeptically and it takes a long time to rebuild the lost trust.

2. Stop Communicating. With Everyone.

Despite a fully engaged audience base, ready to proselytize on behalf of this cool new thing, the team totally quit communicating. With everyone. Overnight. Without explanation.

Keep in mind that one of the tenants of this cool new thing was that it was all about the audience. Not just entertainment pabulum fed to the masses, but rather a truly interactive new platform in which audience and creators interacted. There was a ton of back-and-forth, then nothing.

Total. Radio. Silence.

Attempts were made to insert someone who understood neither the creators nor the audience into the communication chain, but you can guss how that worked out.

3. Ignore Every Lifeline Thrown to Your Sinking Ship

The almost freakishly savvy audience figured out pretty quickly that not-good stuff was afoot. Some of the professionals among them offered different sorts of assistance that could have kept the audience engaged during a time of re-framing and repositioning.

They were ignored.

Then word started leaking out that there was dysfunction in the core team. A number of folks left (or were asked to leave) badly. Word spread. The project failed.

The Take-Away

It wasn’t the business model that killed this project. Yes, it was overly-ambitious, but some mid-way re-framing could have saved it.

The major failure of this project centered on communication. Internal communication among the core team, as well as the others brought on board to bring this project to life. External communication that was unheard-of-ly inclusive of the target audience that just disappeared.

The lessons for each of us who aspire to engage the world in whatever it is we have to offer both personally and professionally is this:

  1. Have a communication plan (they didn’t).
  2. Execute it . . . even (especially) when it’s hard.
  3. If you’re in trouble, and someone who seems competent offers help, swallow your damn pride and accept it.

Having a good business concept and plan are worthless if your audience and your team have no idea what’s going on. Good communication is one of the very best places to start.

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