Thinking Digitally Is Not A Separate Job Function

from the it's-part-of-everything dept

During the original internet boom years, there were lots of old school companies who realized they needed to get this internet thing, so they would appoint someone to have a title like "Chief Internet Officer" to show they were doing something. Of course, in most cases, they would come up with big dumb "internet ideas" like creating yet another portal in a very crowded market. It appears that the trend of Chief Internet Officers is back -- and it's the same big old media companies. It really was just a few months ago when we mocked MTV for a Business Week article talking about how much the company now "got" the internet. The quotes and strategies in the article suggested that wasn't the case at all. Still, it's a bit surprising that it didn't take long for it to play out. Business Week (again) is now reporting that the 30-something they hired as "Chief Digital Officer" to lead the internetification of MTV has quietly left the company, less than a year after being appointed (we'll note that the Business Week article doesn't seem to acknowledge its gushing profile of the supposedly new digitally focused MTV from just a few months earlier).

The article also notes that other media firms have been appointing similarly titled individuals to help craft a digital/internet strategy. This is a very traditional media way of thinking about things: the internet is just another channel, and so you need to program it like you would a TV network or a magazine. That's absolutely the wrong way to think about these things. The internet isn't a broadcast medium for content providers. The internet has always been about communications -- and content providers need to recognize that. The way for old media companies to embrace digital isn't to appoint a chief digital officer who has no power, but to recognize that an understanding of the internet needs to pervade all aspects of the business. The internet isn't just another platform, but something that will impact every other aspect of their business, by enhancing, changing, challenging and reshaping how they create, deliver and promote all of the content they offer now. These companies don't need Chief Digital Officers. It's not a separate job function. They need to get the entire company thinking digitally and understanding how it impacts their business.

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  1. identicon
    Brian A., 28 Jun 2006 @ 10:23am

    Boss of nothing

    I have to disagree on this one. As much as old media companies "don't get" the Internet, their employees "get it" even less. Without the proper motivation, big companies are prone to group think, idea stagnation, and generally an attitude of business as usual. No one wants to fight an uphill battle against ingrained business practices by themselves. In many cases this type of profound change requires a top-level initiative, with someone who has the ear of senior management.

    The idea that one little guy can somehow force the behemoth to come to grips with the Internet is false. In most cases the guy is just going to say "screw you" and break off to start his own company that "gets" the Internet. Without someone to lead the way, the rank and file employee won't have a clue how to think digitally.

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