M&E Journal: It is the Dawning of the Age of Transparency

By Guy Finley, President, Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) –

I see you. You see me. We see everything. Welcome to the Age of Transparency. It’s a world where we pull down the blinds on our personal privacy while we open the business kimono to secure, synchronized and smart workflows and supply chains. Blockchain, AI, metadata, cloud, cybersecurity are all the fundamental tools that will enable the transformation that is now bringing the Age of Transparency to the fore.

Every great “Age” in human society has humble beginnings that start in some inventor’s cave, shed or garage. But the spark of a smart, new idea can kick-start decades of innovation and transformation in business and culture. Videogame geeks have brought us virtual reality. Data nerds are building AI. Cryptocurrency gamblers created blockchain. Online retailers and search engines are blanketing our planet with connectivity. Hackers exposed our network vulnerabilities. College kids created social media.

And just as the Industrial Age created the Information Age, the Age of Transparency is the underlying cultural offspring of the cumulative impact of the last 50 years of information technologies. The Age of Transparency will topple all internal silos and external borders and build on the power and potential of automated sharing and industry competition.

A truly transparent culture has broad, sweeping implications, but when we look at the core critical discussions the MESA membership is now having around data, security and privacy (I’ll call this the “DSP”) for media and entertainment, it is evident that we are only at the earliest stages of understanding what it means to be a truly connected industry where information about users and customers is no longer governed or held by an elite few but is able to be accessed or used by anyone within the platform, community or society (for the “good” and the “bad”).

No single technology is behind this transformation. It is a perfect storm of cloud-based technologies that are allowing us to collectively take the next steps into this new Age. Likewise, the true potential of the Transparency Age won’t emerge for decades. However, a certain vision of the future will include a fluid exchange and personal control over ALL data throughout the internet, on every platform, with everything interconnected through API handshake agreements to make our deals and experiences seamless.

How do we, as a society and as an industry, get there?

If we buy into this vision, our industry must first concentrate on the practical applications of the here-and-now. We must give serious consideration to the required governance and societal impact for what could go wrong with data’s newfound “freedom” and the transparency currently being explored and exposed (yes, GDPR, Cambridge Analytica, government surveillance, security vulnerabilities and social media are also all products of this new Age). And we must start talking together.

The more transparent we become as an industry with our own enterprise solutions, technology roadmaps, and development, the more we can share, save and succeed — faster and for less.

“With great power comes great responsibility” (thank you Winston Churchill and Spiderman’s Uncle Ben!) so we will need to have some very basic discussions: what are our competitive advantages, what software developments are best being shared, what big machines are better built by a consortium than be each individual company? And how should we self-regulate this process?

It was a wake-up call for every industry during the recent Zuckerberg Senate hearings when Sen. Lindsey Graham asked questions about how the Facebook founder viewed the role of governments in regulating his industry; Graham’s question only strengthens the argument that a new dialogue needs to emerge about the goals of each participant in the new Age of Transparency ecosystem. The GDPR regulation deadline already prompted intense dialogue around the role that government(s) play in protecting their citizens in this uncharted territory.

Has your board and management board truly evaluated the emerging corporate responsibility required by this new age of fluid data, collaborative IP, robust cybersecurity, personal privacy — all basic requirements of doing business as good industry citizen in the years ahead?

As a relative newcomer to the digital age, Media & Entertainment enters this Age of Transparency with a relatively clean slate. We don’t hold decades of data about our customers; there has been a fluid, cross-company exchange of senior executives for decades; there is a heavy concentration of professionals and companies in L.A., NYC, London, Mumbai and Singapore where face-to-face discussions can be held; and, yes, entertainment still draws talent.

We are no longer just entertainment companies pushing product through large, long established B-to-B channels (cable, retail, theaters, etc.); we are building direct to consumer marketplaces where M&E companies become data stewards to individual’s PII, consumption habits and electronic preferences — all of which are logged and maintained through the platforms and systems we (or our trusted partners) host online.

For your next company meeting, try starting with this Agenda Item:

The Age of Transparency is here. How are we protecting our business partners, customers, employees and ultimately our own companies in these interesting times ahead? Who are our strategic business partners and how should we start working more closely together?


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