On Monday, on the way to Tony Perkins' launch of AlwaysOn OnMedia here in New York, I had the opportunity to stop with a 'hot' new media company which offers a new face on news, having launched itself earlier this month, and on my 'alma mater', a 150+ year old, venerable international media company, which had once (and not so long ago) been hailed by Tom Peters as an engine of innovation.
The contrast was stark - in NoHo, while sitting in the sunny, cheerful offices of the startup, a patient gentleman standing behind me as I hopped onto my email at an open desk tapping into the highspeed ethernet connection I was invited to use. The polite fellow turned out to be the CEO of another company in which I had a small role. The host CEO asked for an introduction, and a prospective, mutually beneficial business deal was begun.
At the venerable old firm, in its offices rising high above Times Square, similarly brilliant people toiled in better surroundings and greater numbers than ever before. The latter scene appeared, however, an exercise in futility according to many, speaking in hushed tones about their aspirations amid a culture which had become increasingly bureaucratic - scores of desks specialized in massaging texts eminating from the treasury or shifts in the market ticker.
The venerable version has its pockets of sharp, technically astute innovators. Yet they were separated by invisible barriers between office cubicles from those doing the work in this giant information network that was not so different from the 'megamachine' of human clerical organization that once built the pyramids of Egypt. And yet they also invoke Henry David Thoreau's axe on lives of quiet desperation.
Ironically, the two companies and cultures need each other.
Neither survives alone - and that is also the sweet spot of OnMedia.