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Moving With the Times

8/08/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern

I experienced my first earthquake recently in Los Angeles, and I can report I am not a big fan. Back home in Minnesota, the ground doesn't move unless some really fat guy slips on an ice patch.

So I did what I believe most sane people should do soon after the ground starts to shake. I got the hell out of there and went as far East as possible without having to pay 17 bucks for a Euro—New York. Anywhere not scientifically expected to break off into the ocean anytime soon would have worked.

But while I was happy to get away from the tremblers in California, the trip produced a first-person lesson about another alarming seismic shift: the one in our business. And the Richter Scale was right in my laptop.

I've never been much of an early adapter, in fact quite the opposite. My deep, dark secret is I still don't own a high definition TV set. But my viewing experience during this trip showed that even the tech laggards like myself have already crossed the chasm when it comes to how we are viewing content.

My cross-country trip was actually for some internal meetings about how we are going to trick you out of a bigger chunk of your marketing budgets, which clearly are going to skyrocket next year. That's called optimism, kids. It used to live in the television industry before DVRs and recessions.

When I wasn't busy plotting to take your money, I had the chance to do something rare for a guy with a wife and two young kids: I got to sit in front of a screen and watch exactly what I wanted in peace. I had forgotten that was legal in this country.

I watched a few baseball games as my Minnesota Twins went into Seattle and performed about as well as that High School Musical reality show.

I embraced my inner science fiction geek and watched some Battlestar Galactica.

And then I finally caught up on AMC's Mad Men, which somehow lives up to the hype.

Completely satisfied as a viewer by the end of the week, I was packing up to check out of my hotel and glanced up at the fancy flat-screen television on the wall only to realize one thing: I hadn't turned it on once.

I had watched the baseball games on Major League Baseball's Website, Battlestar Galactica on DVD and Mad Men courtesy of iTunes.

What's more, it had never dawned on me to turn on the TV.

During those internal meetings, we were strategizing about how to deal with people and companies that were clinging to the old ways of doing business. After listening to some people (perhaps rightfully) note that we still need to cater to their wishes, I couldn't resist.

“Screw 'em,” I found myself saying in my typically professional manner. “They won't be working in this business much longer.”

And it's probably true. As my trip to New York showed, if even a technological late bloomer like myself is now inadvertently ignoring a TV in a hotel room, clearly the big one has already hit our business.

MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM...

• Back in June, I wrote that I had flown Virgin America six times and never once had the TV system worked flawlessly. I am hardly shocked to report that last week I flew Virgin twice more…and the TV system didn't work perfectly either time. That makes them zero-for-eight. And you thought airline service was inconsistent.

• The running joke in journalism is to toss a name like Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan somewhere in your story and watch your online readership soar. Apparently another name makes that list: the Grateful Dead. I had a throwaway mention of the band last week in this column, and the inbox was humming. I guess if I keep mentioning the Dead, I can, um, smoke the competition?

E-mail comments to ben.grossman@reedbusiness.com

 

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