What Are You—Media Person or Tech Person?

The one thing that probably made all those years trapped in Groundhog Day for Bill Murray’s character survivable is that autoplay audio video ads on the internet hadn’t been invented yet.

My planned off-site activity in Huntington Beach? Surfing. My biggest fear is not the sharks, the cold or even the wetsuit (okay, maybe that should be). It’s the pop-up. I’ve never gotten up on a board without a kite to help me. Something tells me I’m going to be drinking a lot of salt water. That being said—that’s why we do these activities at AdMonsters. I’m sure my fellow surfers and I are going to come back with a story. Hopefully there are no boats like Miami, and I’m not leading the way (Palm Springs and Nashville). Come. Be part of the story.

Quick, before you overthink it: Are you a media person or a technologist?

For me, it’s both. Sorry, I didn’t give you that option. Consent is not our industry’s strength (oh, just wait until May for GDPR. Also, this).

I know for me that I can’t see myself in media without a certain tech component. I enjoy focusing on the delivery of content to make the content resonate and profitable, helping fund my other content ideas. Tech for tech’s sake isn’t as interesting for me. While it would serve my end goal of total world domination, spending all day building killer robots holds no appeal (yet).

I think this is what Zuckerberg is struggling with right now at Facebook. He’s a tech guy and explicitly avoids the label of media guy. For him, the internet provided all the materials he needed to engineer a platform that disrupted everything. Of course, he’s in the process of learning just how dangerous those materials can be.

But Facebook’s—and let’s throw Google’s in the mix—blind eye to their impact on media is a discussion for others who make their living discussing this stuff. My original question was for you, who I’m assuming are in digital media, in some operational capacity. Facebook and Google are going to do what they do, but why is your answer to that question important?

It’s important because media needs tech people who care about media. Please, don’t consider a love for media a weakness. We will someday learn that technical disruption for disruption’s sake has dangerous consequences. You can deride the newspaper industry all you like, but newspapers were moneymakers, and that allowed them to pay for journalists who took their time to uncover and understand a story. Nixon wasn’t brought down with a listicle.

As I look across the world of ad operations, my main concern is that, as individuals, there is a lack of concern about the media that we help fund, or else the role we’re asked to play in ad operations doesn’t require us to care. Digital media is growing more complex. You may find that using Python is more important a skill than Excel—but don’t let that be your only contribution to the company. People in programmatic positions shouldn’t only be stockbrokers helping game an inefficient system.

From your own career perspective, you should realize that if your only job is to push numbers, AI is going to continually take over more and more of your responsibilities. The result will be you looking at other industries when these jobs go away or you’re going to have to provide some other value to the company you work for. My suggestion for those in this position, or people who employ people in this position: Learn about media. Help shape its future by learning the past and where it needs to go. Those who only focus on media need to learn tech. Tech people need to learn to understand media. The people who do both are the future.