Podcast: John McCoskey Creating the Community of Tomorrow

Lane Cooper sits down with John McCoskey of Eagle Hill Consulting to discuss creating the community of tomorrow.


Lane Cooper:                00:00               Hello, and welcome to NAB Live, and to our ongoing series of conversations with people that are making a difference with how it is that we live our digital lives. Extremely fortunate today to catch up with John McCoskey. He is an industry executive for technology, media, and entertainment with Eagle Hill Consulting.

Lane Cooper:                00:29               John, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today.

John McCoskey:            00:31               Thanks, appreciate the opportunity.

Lane Cooper:                00:33               So, John, wanted to talk to you about creating the community of tomorrow in the technology, media, and entertainment sector, so right up your alley. Wanted to sort of explore the key issues that we talk about and we think about when we talk about community and we talk about tomorrow. But let's start by talking about the concept of inclusion. As we think of younger people coming in, bringing in people that are of different genders, bringing in groups that have traditionally been perhaps not invited to participate in this industry. Tell us a little bit about how you see those dynamics playing as we think about the community of tomorrow in the technology and entertainment and media sector.

John McCoskey:            01:10               Sure. Well, I think it's, first, it's really important, and it's something where I think the industry has still got a long way to go. So if you look around the halls at NAB, you see a lot of white male people, you know, that are over 40, right? So getting to the point where we're starting to get more young people involved, more diversity, more inclusion, just really across the board. I think it's something we need to focus more on. I think we're starting to see more and more of it, but we still have a ways to go. And there are a couple of ways to do that. I know that with SMPTE, the organization that I'm associated with as a professional organization, we think that you have to actually go and find people as early as high school, because if you're not getting people thinking about this industry and the opportunities in this industry in high school and of course college, by the time they get to the workforce, they're gone, they're not interested in working in media and entertainment. 

John McCoskey:            02:03               So, huge opportunity. I think the fact that we have a digital world now, that everybody is embracing, means people are seeing the output of media and entertainment businesses, and hopefully that makes it more interesting to them, and we can keep them involved.

Lane Cooper:                02:17               So, I think it's a tremendous effort, that we just had an event last night here at the NAB that SMPTE sponsored to bring in people of many different backgrounds, into the equation, into the conversation. But I wonder from the other perspective, on the senior side of the equation, you sometimes hear concerns about "oh, with these millennials, how do we talk to them?" Or "Generation Z, how are we going to relate to them?"

Lane Cooper:                02:41               As you look at this issue, do you see, we certainly see differences of opinion, differences in ways that they consume content. Do you see differences in how they interact and communicate and engage with the workforce?

John McCoskey:            02:54               It's a really interesting question. At Eagle Hill we work with a lot of clients that are dealing with change, and dealing with culture, and things like that. And you go into conversation about that with these stereotypes, that for example, millennials don't like to talk on the phone, or they don't like face-to-face conversations, and they want to deal with texts and emails. And we actually went out and did some formal research, and what we found was that, no, millennials and Gen-Xers and baby boomers really all want the same thing. And when you're dealing for example with the Change Project, they don't want to hear about it from emails, they want one-on-one conversations, and they want to have small-group conversations. And it's regardless of, you know, which demographic group they are. People are the same, and change is the same.

Lane Cooper:                03:39               So this whole idea that we have to sort of prepare, on the receiving side of hiring folks, that we somehow have to reorganize ourselves, that's not quite the case?

John McCoskey:            03:48               I don't think so. And I think understanding that people are consuming content differently is important, more from the creative side. Because we know obviously people have to find content in different places than they were, say, five, ten years ago. And there are some demographic differences there. But even there, we're starting to see blending. The changes in consumption are moving up in age as people age, as well.

Lane Cooper:                04:12               So, another big cultural dimension, and you've alluded to this already, is that we have this broadcast technology group which is very well-established, has a very visceral, tangible culture. You also have this digital technology community, which has a different, very tangible culture. Tell us a little bit about those two environments, and, you know, their coming together. How do we manage that?

John McCoskey:            04:35               It's really interesting, because I'm a guy that came up through the broadcast and technology side of broadcast and cable. And what you find there is what we train engineers to do, is, basically failure is not an option. Take no risks. Keep things on the air, at all cost. So that's kind of the mentality that the traditional broadcast and cable side of the industry has worked with. 

John McCoskey:            04:58               Now, as we bring on more digital parts of our businesses, it's a completely different culture. The culture there is fail fast, but if you're not failing you're not trying enough new things, and not trying hard enough. And take some risks, because if you don't take risks, again, you're not pushing the envelope on things. So finding that balance between what we've trained traditionalists, and what they were training the newer folks coming in, I think is going to be really important. Because where we need to end up is somewhere in the middle, there.

Lane Cooper:                05:26               Well, we live in this era of innovation, where consumers' tastes and preferences are constantly evolving. So it does seem that a bias for maturity in broadcast, a tried-and-true, and proven, process, is really valued because it's not likely to fail. But it's not likely to be nimble enough to address some of these new demands. What can be done to bring these together? It's clearly two different environments, so how do we bridge that gap?

John McCoskey:            05:54               So I think what we find with our clients is looking at it organizationally. Because traditionally what happens is organizations come from the traditional broadcast environment, and they've added on a digital package to their organization that, probably 10 years ago, was kind of a skunkworks and just a trial. Well, now it's a core part of their business, but they haven't actually brought those two pieces of the business together. So as they start looking at that, you find two things. One is you're actually, until you bring them together, you're not going to solve this cultural divide. Second is, because you're running them as separate operations, it's not very efficient, because they're generally working with the same content, they're working across the same consumers of this content.

John McCoskey:            06:35               So, organizationally, you really have to look at how do we start bringing those two halves of the organization together, and then the culture kind of follows that.

Lane Cooper:                06:43               You know, what I find interesting, though, is you do end up in silos, right? You have the folks that are working on your web strategy, and on an entirely different track. Have you seen a successfully-integrated digital and broadcast environment? You don't have to name names, but do you see it out there? It is being accomplished successfully?

John McCoskey:            07:04               I've seen it at the level of broadcast stations, for example. Stations that have decided that they are going to rethink the way they do the broadcast, digital, and news sides of their businesses. So, for example, having a news operation that is broadcast, online, podcasts, and all of this all together. And so, yes, it's happening. I haven't seen it happen at the network level, yet, so I think it's happening on a smaller scale, because it's probably easier to take on. But the networks are sensitive to it, because they realize as I said before that the inefficiencies of this are really not something that we can keep up with for the years to come. We've got to figure this one, and find the efficiencies that it will allow content creators to find in this.

Lane Cooper:                07:49               So we have some moving parts that we've been talking about, right? We've got a new generation, a more diverse generation, entering the workforce in technology, media, and entertainment. We have this fail-fast mentality, this sort of agile, scrum, software culture that's coming in. What are some steps that decision-makers can take to begin facilitating this integration, and creating a truly representative group that is also nimble and responsive to the market needs?

John McCoskey:            08:20               I think you do have to go back to making this part of your corporate DNA. So having a good, kind of diverse, hiring strategy isn't by writing it down and saying that we have a good, diverse hiring strategy. You actually have to follow up and make sure that your organization is doing that, and is trying to represent the audiences they serve.

John McCoskey:            08:43               I worked in public broadcasting for many years, and the mantra there was, you know, public broadcasting wants to be built from the people that mirror the audiences that public broadcasting serves. And so what I found in public broadcasting is you actually have a pretty diverse workforce, because it was really built into the DNA of the organizations to get there.

John McCoskey:            09:03               I think other organizations have to take that on, and they have to really take this on at the corporate level. And again, this isn't something that comes out as a memo from your HR department. It really needs to be part of the DNA from the top down in an organization.

Lane Cooper:                09:15               And on the digital broadcast, the traditionalist versus the digitalists, I know it's not a word, but, uh, what can we do to begin bridging those gaps?

John McCoskey:            09:25               I think the good news there is that is starting to happen on a faster pace. A lot of it is because of what we see here at the NAB. The world is changing to a world of IP technology. So all of the Internet Protocol technology, all the stuff that the digital folks have been using forever, now is what the broadcast side of the business is based on. It's all the same equipment, all the same technologies that are coming out of the IT industries. So that's kind of forcing people to understand each other a lot better, and I think what's happening is people are getting cross-trained between kind of the digital and traditional sides of their business, largely because of the technology base that's supporting both of them now.

Lane Cooper:                10:03               John, thank you so very much for taking the time to chat. Very interesting.

John McCoskey:            10:06               Thanks. I appreciate it.