Digital Directions: The Third Rail
New directions require new skills and perspectives. Hiring choices across the organization should reflect its digital strategy. Familiarity with digital technologies should be expected in new hires across the organization, not just for the “techies.” This will both reduce training requirements and increase the rate of innovation. In addition, publishing organizations should seek out those who are willing to look at new approaches to the creation, sale and distribution of content. We are clearly in the midst of a period of tremendous change. Those uncomfortable with diverging from “the way we always did things” will become obstacles to digital innovation.
The organizational aspect, the third rail, is the most important one. No matter how visionary, no digital media platform or program can succeed without the commitment of the organization, equipped with the necessary understanding, training and motivation.
Of course, urban denizens are well familiar with the third rail: It is the rail carrying the high-voltage line for the subway. It’s what gives the train power and makes it go. On the other hand, it’s pretty catastrophic if you are unfamiliar with the third rail and stumble across it by accident. It can ruin your whole day.
Andrew Brenneman is managing director of Finitiv, a digital media consultancy. He has 20 years of experience leading pioneering digital media initiatives in publishing and advertising, including NETg’s Skill Builder, Thomson Learning’s WebTutor, FreeMark Mail and MSDewey.com. Brenneman also founded the Digital Media Group of The University of Chicago Press Books Division, where he led digital distribution and the development of The Chicago Manual of Style Online.