Monday, October 22, 2007

All You Need Is Love

Long before "Lost," there was another television show about being stranded on a mysterious island and held captive by strange characters. "The Prisoner," starring Patrick McGoohan, aired in the 1960s and later became a cult classic in repeats on public television. In that show, McGoohan played "Number Six," a former spy tormented by "Number Two," "Rover" and a host of bizarre people living in "the Village" and accessing underground observation centers.
The most controversial episode of "The Prisoner" was the series finale, in which the unanswered questions of the show are left unanswered. Instead, viewers were exposed to a series of strange images, symbols and the sound of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."
(Prediction: When "Lost" airs its series finale, I expect to see at least one reference to the finale of "The Prisoner." And it will probably be that same Beatles tune.)

I found myself thinking of the conclusion of "The Prisoner" last week as I wrote the final piece in my five-part series on questions for B2B media. In that blog post I asked "What can you, your staff and your publication bring to the table that no one else can?
I promised to give my answer to that question this week.
And here it is:
Love.

I don't mean love of the industry you cover. That's the realm of user-generated content, expert columnists and feedback functions. I mean love of the industry that you're in.
In B2B media, we are in the business of connecting people with information and with each other. Increasingly, that's the business that all of media is in. But in B2B, that has always been the core of what we do.
And as long as we love it, we can survive any challenge.

I'm not talking about loving your publication. Because your publication may become obsolete. I'm not talking about loving the stories you write, the graphics you design or the photos you take -- those are but a part of what we do. I'm not talking about loving your employer, which may view you as nothing more than a piece of machinery.
I'm talking about loving this game. I'm talking about loving this profession. I'm talking about obsessive love, irrational love, exuberant love -- love of the game even as the game changes and it sometimes breaks your heart.

There will always be someone who can publish more articles, produce more content more quickly, write better prose and shoot better video. There will always be bloggers and standalone journalists with more insight than many of the folks on your staff. There will always be marketers with bigger budgets and better research creating content that will rival your own. You cannot win all those battles all the time.
The only weapon you have is the love of the game.

For more than two years now, I have asked various versions of the following question: "if you're in this game for the money, how can you compete against someone who is in it for love? "
And the answer is that you can't.

Close observers of B2B media have seen two very different visions emerge of what it means to be in this business. First, there are the new voices -- standalone journalists, bloggers and others who write because they feel passion for their subject. Second, there are the new investors -- private equity firms and leveraged-buyout specialists who look at B2B media as a series of "properties" and "products" that need to cut costs, grow revenue and then be resold again and again.
In the middle are the professionals of B2B -- the editors, reporters, designers and other foot soldiers of our industry.
And to those people I say the following: It's time to choose sides.

When the investors cut your pay, when the investors show contempt for your ethics, the only reason to stay in B2B media is because you love this game. Only love will give you the strength to fight the good fights and to quit when your boss crosses the line. When new competitors emerge and your core publications begin to lose money, only love will give you the strength to work harder and smarter and build something new you can be proud of.
So choose a side.
And remember that love is all you need. In fact, it's all you have.

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4 comments:

Mindy McAdams said...

What a wonderful post, Paul. I really enjoyed it.

Madhu said...

I, too, really enjoyed this, but I'm worried: It smells an awful lot like "goodbye". I hope that's not the case!

Paul Conley said...

Thanks!
And I promise you, this is not goodbye.

Subhasis said...

I really like your way of speaking.
Learnt a lot from you. Keep up the good work. thanks.