What is a “Media Company” Anyhow?

With all the discussion of Yahoo’s next CEO, the question has arisen:  is Yahoo a technology company?  A media company?  Both?  Is there a distinction?

I’m still not sure I buy into this distinction.  The modern media powerhouse has to have its fingers deep into technology.  Perhaps there’s an argument to be made about the need to own technology vs. being an aggressive exploiter of the technology but I think this artificial distinction has gotten many companies, Yahoo included, into trouble.  Terry Semel tried turning Yahoo into a media company and by turning his back on a lot of the technology Yahoo had in development or practice, started Yahoo’s diastrous path to this point.

I think media companies can survive without owning technology but they’d better have a deep understanding of its capabilities and how that technology is changing the relationship between advertiser, media outlet and consumer.  I’m wrestling with taking this argument a step further and making the argument that the leading media powerhouses of this next era must own key technologies, that they are sources of key differentiation and enable greater control of the monetization process.  I’m not prepared to make the assertion now but I do believe that’s where we’re headed.  Note that I am not positing that all major media companies must also be technology companies but I think the long-term biggest winners combine the two (or more).

I know this sounds like AOL TW, and that gives me pause…but we’ve seen lots of combinations over the years that were wrong at the time not because the idea was fundamentally flawed but that the timing was disastrously off.

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