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    Entries in attention (2)


    Aligning business strategy and talent strategy: Kim Kardashian edition

    File this one to the 'You probably have no idea what is bothering your employees' file.

    Check this recent piece on Business Insider about some of the tensions that continue to roil the folks at beleaguered technology dinosaur Yahoo. I will just drop the headline (edited slightly to keep this post out of email subscriber's spam folders), then some quick comments after the lede:

    Yahoo's big media hires complain they have to compete against Kim Kardashion'a A$$'

    (from the piece)

    Yahoo's content strategy is frustrating a lot of its own writers and other media personalities, with many complaining about the front page algorithm that shows non-Yahoo generated stories over original content.

    In fact, it's become so demoralizing that some Yahoo journalists are openly complaining about losing front page space to lowbrow content, like celebrity gossip.

    “You are competing against Kim Kardashian’s ass,” is a running joke within the Yahoo newsroom, the report said.

    One big reason for this is that Yahoo's front page is run by an algorithm that automatically identifies and shows stories based on each user's personal taste..

    A quick point here, although the post from BI is meant to grab attention and clicks, the issue at Yahoo and Kim's 'features', is not the important takeaway from this. What is important, if we can expand upon the comments and complaints from the Yahoo writers, is that they seem to have not been clued in on the strategy and subsequent decisions (even the ones made by an algorithm), that Yahoo execs are pursuing.

    Yahoo's problem, at least in this example, isn't really whether or not the content strategy that favors aggregated, viral, or lowbrow content over more reasoned, professional, and high-minded content that the Yahoo writers produce is the 'right' one from a pure content creation perspective. 

    The problem is that the business/content strategy that results in our pal Kim being featured prominently on the Yahoo home page doesn't line up at all with the organization's talent strategy that has recruited and is paying handsomely lots and lots of super writers and reporters.  It doesn't make sense to pay (perhaps overpay), someone like Katie Couric to produce exclusive shows and interviews for the site, then bury these features underneath the latest celebrity news and gossip.

    There isn't much point in chasing 'top' talent if the work you have for them is not aligned with what 'top' talent expects and can most likely find somewhere else. It might work for a while, but then you do end up having to overpay, essentially bribing them to go along to come along if you will.

    But eventually, if they are really good, they will find somewhere to do what it is they really are born to do. It's just probably not chronicling the latest developments from Kim and Kanye's Instagram accounts.


    The Long View

    Endless rivers of information race past us each day.  People, conversations, messages, calls, sports and news TV channels no longer content to simply 'present' the game or the top stories, but also have toImage - Hiroshi Sugimoto stream a unrelenting flow of information on other games being played and other stories that you may have missed.  As I write this I am watching a professional football game on TV, and in addition to the actual game coverage, the following supplementary information is super-imposed on the screen:

    1. The score of the current game
    2. The time remaining in the game
    3. The down number and number of yards to make to achieve a first down
    4. The name of the network broadcasting the game
    5. Computer generated lines showing the where each play begins and the yard to make to achieve a first down
    6. A constantly updating scroll of scores from all the other NFL games being played, also displaying the time remaining in each game
    7. A steady stream of graphics with statistical information such as the number of yards a given player has gained, or various individual and team accolades.
    8. Occasional graphics previewing upcoming shows on the broadcast network

    All that additional clutter information more or less adds to the overall presentation, increases (mostly) the viewers enjoyment of the game, and can benefit the broadcaster by keeping the viewer's attention for a longer period and decreasing the likelihood they will switch to another game or show. 

    But it is a ton of extra data to process, and while it does seem likely in this hyper-connected digital age that we are getting better as multi-tasking and complex processing, I wonder if we can at time miss the very nature of what we are trying to see and understand by keeping one eye always on what else is happening. 

    The image included in this post is taken from a collection by the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. The collection is called 'Theaters', and the photos were created by taking long-exposure photographs of cinema screens for the entire duration of a movie, resulting in a blank white screen, that varies in brightness and intensity according to the overall mood of the film.  If the movie was light, and happy; a brighter screen emerged, dark or horror movies resulted in a much more subdued and drab screen.

    Certainly the images created by Sugimoto don't tell us much about the original film from which they were based. The screen in the photograph is essentially blank, the only piece of information we can deduce is the relative mood of the piece (maybe), by comparing the brightness across a set of images from many films.

    But in a way perhaps these images, while not being a good substitute for the original film presentation do offer an important and possibly compelling complement.  While we watch a film, especially a modern one full of fancy computer generated effects, it can be very easy to become enthralled by these effects, by the fast flowing stream of characters, settings, action scenes, music etc.  We can often leave a movie thinking more about individual or isolated elements of the presentation, sometimes missing the larger message (if there is one), or redeeming or lasting lesson.

    I think there may be a case, whether it is watching a sports broadcast on TV, catching a movie in a theater, assessing and interpreting the news of the day, and certainly making sense of the incredible volumes of data, links, updates and other by-products of this connected world that more than ever the need to step back, open the camera shutter, and observe long enough to get a better sense of the big picture will be an important and vital skill.

    What do you think? Are we losing focus in the barrage of information?