I couldn’t be more excited, proud, honored and humbled to announce my new job as the Chief Social Media Officer of Endemol Beyond US, the new digital branch of the world’s largest independent production company, Endemol. This is a dream job (bringing social media to the core of a major media company), at a dream company (startup but within an amazing brand), under a dream boss (cult film legend and digital impresario, Will Keenan) and within a dream team (that you’ll be hearing a lot more about).
Here’s some initial press on Endemol Beyond in general. Here’s the press release about my hire and Variety was the first to break the news. If you don’t know what Endemol is, check out the Wikipedia entry to be impressed.
In this post I’ll share a little of my vision for the new gig and what excites me most about the opportunity. There’s also some eye candy :-)
First I’ll take a step back to put the new job in a little context for those new to the blog.
This new job comes exactly one year since leaving Viacom, where I was the first person hired to lead Social TV efforts across the dozens of brands and over one thousand social media accounts of the company. It was a great job, where I was like an internal consultant to executives, product managers, social media managers and more. I also spent a good deal of time on public-facing initiatives like press interviews and panel appearances at conferences. I wrote pieces like The Day You’ll Know Social TV Has Arrived, The Great Storytelling Revolution and, since leaving Viacom, Corporate Structure in the Innovation Economy.
Ultimately, it was time to depart amicably, after over four years in the Viacom family and 2 years in the last role (the first chapter was under visionary President Brian Graden, leading a SWAT team of digital operatives to create dozens of digital and social offshoots of original programming). I spent the entirety of 2013 traveling, meeting hundreds of people, working mostly behind the scenes on several consulting gigs and helping various non-profit causes. One of the highlights was working closely with actress, activist and producer Eliza Dushku on her digital and social strategy, as well as helping her propel efforts around the two non-profit causes closest to her heart. For a quick look at this uniquely inspiring year of my life, outside of traditional work, check out What I’ve Been Up To. (just a quick shout-out to my awesome wife, who stood beside me all year and let me join as her eating companion on her goal of becoming a top Sea Urchin expert – please visit UrchinSurchin.tumblr.com! Also check out our travel blogs, Shwirtzing.tumblr.com and ShwirtzTheSouth.com.)
Getting back to the new, exciting update…
To me, Social TV represents a vision for new genres of content, new ways to connect with audiences, letting them behind the curtains in ways never before possible. The chief challenge industry-wide is figuring out how digital and linear teams work together, with social media not just serving a marketing or technology function. Social media needs to be at the core of what media companies do, work across all silos and, ultimately, influence all traditional practices, from talent agreements to how shows are edited and much more.
And that’s why I’m so excited about Endemol Beyond and my role as its Chief Social Officer. I can now work across all silos and think in terms of “digital business plans” for our brands and talent, not in terms of “social media marketing plans.” In hiring me for this new position, Endemol is stating loud and clear that it understands social media belongs in the core of its business. Unlike my prior jobs, I am now spending a majority of my time with the ultra-creative people who create amazing, popular and profitable content – producers, writers, talent and more. I’m reading scripts, evaluating talent deals and developing social and digital strategies as key components to helping to evolve new paradigms of content creation, distribution and monetization.
Two and a half years ago I wrote “This Isn’t Your Grandmother’s Social Media Revolution” and now I have the unique opportunity to put those strategies into action (it just took longer than originally predicted)!
So what are we doing???
Not a lot is public yet. The work will take many forms and, undoubtedly, be experimental and a lot of fun!
I just returned from NATPE, where we made two major announcements:
1- An all-around deal with the mega, mega global superstar Pitbull. There’s been a lot of press about the deal.
2- A digital deal with legendary Courtney Love – check out the trailer for her new premium YouTube channel and catch her actually replying to fans commenting on the video (I promise its really her!):
I’m especially proud of this picture and caption, which was my idea:
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney)January 27, 2014
And I love what my old friends at MTV had to say about Courtney’s new deal.
That’s about all from me about the announcement for now, but stay tuned for much, much more! Here are a few pics from our total blow-out party in Miami… Courtney rocked the house, Will and I had a great time overall and I got to bond with digital legend Grace Helbig over a shared passion for Buffalo wings:
Today’s my birthday, when Facebook reminds people I’m still alive. With that in mind, I figured it was time to answer a question I know people will be thinking when they see my name pop up in the birthday reminders – what have I been up to this year?! In short, 2013 turned into a year off the grid for me, filled with travel and lots of behind the scenes work. This blog post attempts to share what I’ve been up to.
The last formal job I had ended at the end of 2012, when I left my role as head of Social TV Strategy for Viacom. The amicable departure allowed me to spend much of this year away from traditional work, corporate America, job hunting and the like. I was able to travel extensively with my awesome wife (about eight countries, three continents, 20 cities) and meet with a vast array of people. These meetings were unique because I wasn’t looking for work, wasn’t pitching myself and wasn’t soliciting anything other than genuine conversation and exchange of thoughts.
In this time I met with former colleagues, mentors, friends, peers of all kinds and many friends of friends. It was refreshing not having any agenda other than getting to know people while talking about issues and trends we shared passion for.
In the course of over 100 such exchanges I was astounded to discover a large amount of folks that had either already left their jobs or were about to leave their jobs. This surprising trend has continued and it seems like every other day I learn of another relation who’s left her or his job. What’s even more intriguing is that the majority of these unemployed left where they were without having their “next thing.”
To make it clear, 2013 appears to have been the year for really talented, well-connected and successful people to leave their jobs even without knowing what they were going to do next. As a quick anecdote, over half of the thirty participants I invited to a high level, digital think tank-type gathering I organized in January, 2013, are no longer with the jobs they had while attending The St0ry. There seems to be something in the air, and it isn’t a “millennial” or any other generation-specific trend.
What I’ve noticed, in conversation after conversation, is that really smart people started seeing the writing on the wall. The first type, those who succeeded in doing great work from a more senior position, recognized they are more valuable as independent contractors and creators – where they could own more of their work, intellectual property, monetization and the like. The second type, VPs and below who are promising up and comers, on the fast-track in their careers, recognized there are intractable barriers to innovation at most large companies and they’d be better off on the outside (I wrote elsewhere about Web 1.0 executives in a Social 3.0 world).
This has caused an amazing reality, where talent is both needed and available but the truly talented want more. Figuring out that “more” has been my mission for 2013. My peers and I know we have a lot to offer. We have trophies, great contacts, experience and passion but are tired of old-world org structures, titles, bosses afraid to innovate themselves out of jobs and an obsessive focus on the next quarterly report to investors. We want more and that’s why we’re checking out of old paradigms.
Unsurprisingly, as the year progressed, I had to make decisions about earning an income once again. In trying to describe my desire and answer that question of “what’s more?” I eventually stumbled on to what has become my mantra, “I want to work with people I like on projects I care about.”
It’s a simple idea that has empowered me to make decisions I otherwise wouldn’t have made. Its focused my thinking, opened new horizons, attracted like-minded superstars to want to work with me and given me space for the kind of contemplation needed when embedded in such a frenetic industry.
So what am I actually doing now? Because I’ve mostly been working behind the scenes, with people who know me, I’ve decided to be more secretive than usual about my work. Generally, I’ve worked with a major network on strategy around their biggest event of the year; I’ve worked with several agencies on thought leadership ideas for their clients; I’ve consulted for one of the most interesting Social TV experiments to launch in 2014; I’ve mentored startups and entrepreneurs. Luckily, I have a super supportive wife who is happy to be on the ride with me.
One thing in particular that I’m excited about is applying the ideas and strategies of media companies to individuals, specifically celebrities. Like media companies, celebrities create content regularly that they own the rights to (think Instagram, blogs, podcasts, web series, etc.) and control their own, direct-to-fan marketing channels (social media, newsletters, etc.)
With me on this adventure is the actress, producer and activist, Eliza Dushku. Together, we’re working on several projects that explore the evolution of what it means to be a celebrity with content creation, ownership and marketing strategies (case studies include Soleil Moon Frye, Adrian Grenier, Zooey Deschanel, Kevin Smith, Lauren Conrad and many others).
Something else that’s interesting is my evolving role as an advisor to people thinking of leaving their work and as a connector for newly-extricated superstars. I’m thinking of creating some sort of unemployment club. Seriously. The first rule of Unemployment Club? You can’t have a job. The second rule? You can’t want a job.
So what am I actually doing now? Stay tuned. Or, better yet, say hi! (bonus points for wishing me a happy birthday by means other than the Facebook wall!)
Here are some of the people who, like me, have made big shifts in 2013. I owe each a huge thanks for their commiseration, inspiration and friendship (I linked to their news as well as Twitter accounts): Jesse Redniss (@JesseRedniss), Sharon Feder Hirsch (@Sharon Feder), Andy Ellwood (@AndyEllwood), Erica Berger (@GoodBerger), David Levy (@dslevy), Callie Schweitzer (@cschweitz), Mark Ghuneim (@MarkGhuneim), Rebecca Sinderbrand (@Sinderbrand), Greg Levey (@GregoryLevey), Amanda Slavin (@AJSlavin), Will Keenan (@WillKeenan), Morgan Greco (@MorganGreco).
Of course I also send warm blessings to all those I know about, and don’t yet know about, that are still stealthily planning their exits (let me know if I can help!)
And, even though he didn’t change jobs this year, I have to shout-out the ever-inspirational Ross Martin (@RossMartin1) – go watch his Poetry of Misunderstanding TED talk and read this amazing Facebook note.
And here’s an awesome article to read for additional insight: Build a Career Worth Having
Little know fact about me - back in 2002/2003 I would spend several hours a week flying on the trapeze. Despite not being very athletic, trapeze, for whatever reason, really excited me. Eventually I learned how to fly without a harness and even helped the Trapeze School build an upgraded website.
Its been nine years since the last time I flew on a trapeze. In that time, my good friend, Jonathon Conant, the founder of Trapeze School, has greatly expanded his business. They now have several rigs across America and have seen many students graduate to places like Cirque du Soleil.
One place he’s expanded to is Santa Monica, where I happen to be spending the week. It was time for my triumphant return to trapeze! But I didn’t want to go alone so I dragged two friends with me. Bringing total beginners would make me feel better about getting back on “the horse” after a nine year absence.
The trapeze virgins I managed to get are my good friends, Nate and Eliza Dushku. We’ve been working on a few projects together and this was like a corporate team-building retreat… sort of.
We had such a great time! Some of my skills came back, Nate was a total natural and Eliza eventually mastered the first trick of any aerialist (the knee-hang).
Here I am, all business! Check out those awesomely-pointed toes!
And here’s Eliza’s perfect knee-hang catch:
The funny thing is that Perez Hilton noticed Eliza’s tweet and blogged about her trapezing.
For more insight, check out Eliza’s great blog post.
I wanted to share this story because I have so many fond memories of my time actively flying and it was really special introducing friends to this whole world. It’ll be hard to resist going to the NY outpost and picking up this cool hobby once more. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out!!!
After spending over two years working across the brands of Viacom on the latest trends and insights surrounding social media and Social TV, I am on the job hunt for the first time in a while. In conversations with present and potential peers, friends, mentors and managers I am often asked a typical question along the lines of “so what do you think we should do in our company?” I find myself not responding with digital strategy ideas but rather a rant about corporate silos, misaligned reward structures, turf battles and the organizational structure overall.
The key bottleneck to growth of several large companies formed in the 20th century is their org structure. They’re leaving money on the table, not maximizing the potential of their resources, brand and intellectual property as key cultural-digital trends continue disrupting old ways of extracting profit from their core business (whatever the core business might be).
This is because the way many companies think of the “digital revolution” (to put it in as generic a term as possible) is via an org structure from at least 15 years ago. When the Internet was first coming into its own, companies knew they needed to build “digital” teams. This usually meant building websites and then mobile apps.
These “digital” teams were created away from the core business and are seen as marketing vehicles for that core business (many also report into heads of marketing). The money invested, the value extracted and the impact overall of these “digital” teams is usually small compared to the core business.
The problem is that these days its clear that the potential for “digital” to inform, infuse and impact the core business is much greater than it was last century and even last decade. The way society thinks of and uses the Internet and social media, the evolution of hardware, bandwidth speeds, storage space and so many more factors are affecting our culture and economy in massive ways. Strategies to understand and capitalize on these fast-changing trends can inform so much more than just marketing.
The typical corporate structure, created under a different understanding of “digital,” is very hard to shake up. These teams are run by senior executives whose career paths were charted by building scalable websites and associated technologies. Many (not all) are “web 1.0” executives in a “social 3.0” world. They know how to keep servers online and the web development process smooth. Justifying the continued existence of their teams and budgets, these executives survive by regularly redesigning sites, launching new apps and widgets and reporting to superiors on pageviews, ad inventory and increases in followers/likers.
Most of the people overseeing “old world” senior digital executives aren’t savvy enough about cultural-digital trends to ask the tough questions that need to be asked. The questions they should be asking have less and less to do with those regular reports on pageviews and likes. They should be asking larger-scale questions and beginning to plan for the fundamental shifts of resources and processes necessary to align corporate plans and the core business for capitalizing on the true potential of the innovation economy.
The impact and potential impact of current trends on the core business of large companies born in the 20th century require analysis by people outside of the current corporate structure and especially outside of the current “digital teams.” I’m advocating for a new role of “Digital Consigliere" to help senior-most, non-digital executives, investors and board members understand, interpret and act upon what they should be asking and what they’re hearing.
From my experience at large media companies, I think we’re already seeing the birth of The Great Storytelling Revolution but strongly believe these trends have weight across industries. These were some of the key ideas that informed a think tank gathering I convened two months ago and summarized in The Story of The St0ry.
Within a few years we’ll find it quaint that there used to be separate “digital teams” who were responsible for “doing digital.” There will be a much tighter integration between digital natives and non-traditionally-digital teams responsible for the core business. Insights from the digital revolution will force a shift of silo and reward structures, as efforts will be aligned in ways that many current structures simply don’t empower. This is obvious within digital-first companies and start-ups but will become just as obvious to large, 20th century-born companies as well.