Should we even bother with “digital transformation?”

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

“We need to undergo a digital transformation with our content.”

Some people have even called me a digital transformer. We used to be on TV Saturday mornings in the 80s. ??

And the intent behind digital transformation is very valid:

We need to evolve our business.

Often that includes doing more digitally. But often the process isn’t digital transformation but rather business evolution or content evolution.

Here’s why: Because I’m right. Ha. ###

Seriously: Digital transformation is often too radical for traditional and established businesses and this often leads to immediate pushback, quick change fatigue and often failure.

Which is why I would now instead recommend: Business (or content or audience) evolution.

When I first started storytelling, it was in the newspaper. The printed one.

Then there was a newspaper website where content was posted after print.

Then we started publishing content there first. Wow, that was a battle. It felt threatening to print. It did because it was called digital transformation and not business evolution.

Even a couple decades later now print newspapers still exist. But the business evolved. I wouldn’t say it digitally transformed, though for the most part.

Related: Why waiting it out is never a good strategy

Many businesses have to evolve but that doesn’t mean to leave behind what works.

My storytelling has evolved from print to TV to digital to keynotes to books to social media to radio to podcasts.

It will likely evolve into virtual reality video storytelling.

Related: My virtual reality blog posts

Just as I was finishing this article Facebook announced another algorithm change that will likely decrease reach. I snarkily tweeted:

Maybe use the time spend hyperventilating due to Facebook algorithm changes on creating rockstar content and trying other channels. An idea. Just top of my head here. ??‍♂️

And then YouTube changed this:

New monetization rule on YouTube:

To make money off ads your channel must have 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months.

Things change. Especially on the channels we don’t own. Don’t over-depend on one or the other. Diversity and ride the waves.

Things change but what doesn’t change is that consumers look for answers, reassurance and entertainment. How that’s delivered and even how it’s produced changes. Joe Pulizzi predicted that by 2037 or so most content will be produced by machines and not people.

The Associated Press already has robots write some stories. I don’t doubt it but what will happen to all of today’s content creators? They have to evolve with the changes.

Related: Why knowing the history is so helpful

While machines can write some stories, they certainly won’t be able to do reporting that happens in the field face to face that soon.

Content creators need to find a core expertise and then stretch into whatever area related to that they can currently capitalize on (Read: make an impact, money, etc.)

I’ve basically done that with storytelling and then stretched it into several job functions:

  • Journalism
  • Corporate marketing
  • Consulting
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Publishing

I’m more horizontal than vertical. That doesn’t mean we don’t need vertical experts. We do need industry experts, however my expertise is in storytelling and audience maintenance. That can be moved to different industries and you can see I’ve done that in my career.

Jobs will disappear and according to this journalist is one of them. Hard to believe and swallow. It does make sense that journalism and publishing jobs that just rewrite news releases should go to robots but journalists that add highly thought through context are probably still needed.

When I first went into journalism I was given a test to rewrite a news release, by the way. That was important to them way back then. Today’s tests should be:

  • An eye for a unique story
  • The ability to write it up for multiple channels
  • The ability to want to push it out (aka distribution) and knowing how to
  • The interest to keep learning
  • Can they grow and keep an audience?

See, journalists never had to worry about distribution in the print age. Now they do. It’s business evolution but not really digital transformation. Many of the overarching concepts still apply but how to be successful changes. And monopolies disappear and change. Owning a printing press is no longer required to build audience. Neither is a laptop computer even. I blog almost exclusively on my phone, for example.

Please, please, please evolve. Do it as fast as possible. But also don’t forget about what got you to today and use relevant pieces of that.

This articles was edited by Lindsay Schwab. You can connect with her here.