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State of the Industry Address

March 27, 2003

By Richard E. Van Deusen

Richard Van Deusen (one of the co-founders of ITVA and member #1) recently addressed MCA-I members at the New Jersey JAMIE Awards about the state of our industry. Following is an excerpt from his remarks.

Dick Van Deusen speaks

Dick Van Deusen gives his "state of the industry" address.

The term that best seems to characterize the state of the media production business today is found in the title of thebook Austin Faccone and I wrote two years ago – Dynamic Media in Transition. This industry is in a transition now, but what’s new about that? Haven’t we always been transitioning to or from something?

Through Media Strategies’ communications management consulting practice I get to talk with a lot of people in this business. I also read a lot about our business and business in general, from AVVideo Multimedia Producer to Harvard Business Review. My overall impression is that there is a growing need for effective, dynamic communications in this incredibly complex world in which we operate.

The problem is that the tight rein on expenses during the current business downturn means that some less critical projects have to be put on back burners – for now.

A fear I hear expressed by many media professionals is that this business may be dying. Many people are wondering whether the current business models can be sustained. It’s getting harder and harder to market services. It seems nearly impossible to find new clients or even replacements for those who keep being laid off, sometimes to be replaced by do-it-yourselfers that think they don’t need professional intervention to create media. I’m sorry to report; there are no easy answers to those concerns.

However, we didn’t choose to go into this business because we expected a nice steady flow of 9-5 work – and income. This has always been a difficult business. We’ve had more than our share of ups and downs over the years. It’s interesting now to watch the rest of the business world having to deal with what we in media production have been going through since companies first started using motion pictures and lantern slides for training and communications back in the 1930s. We’ve always had to fight to get the tools and the recognition and the clients.

Nevertheless, there is an amazing amount of exceptionally high quality work still being produced both by in-house media departments and production companies; we see examples nearly every day. The reason is that communications are more critical today then ever. Training needs are more complex. It’s harder and harder to maintain morale and productivity among disaffected employees. Company loyalty is ancient history. The growth of knowledge means we need better ways to capture and redistribute it. Effective, dynamic media provides the solution. The role of media professionals today is to provide solutions to these critical problems.

This awards banquet is a celebration. It is a celebration of creativity and also of talent, of quality and of technical expertise. But content is still king. That’s what your clients are buying now and will always buy – your ability to interpret their messages and to convert those messages into living and breathing communications vehicles.

And we shouldn’t, we can’t, let our fears of the economy and the disruptions in world around us, impair that celebration. Those things are transitory. What you have to offer is for the long haul.

The future of the business is unarguably positive. It’s also unarguably challenging and a bit frightening. It is changing, no doubt about that. We are working in an expanded universe of technologies. You need to keep reinventing yourselves.

Speaking of reinventing, I have to talk a bit about MCA-I. In 1970, six other people and I got together to put up $35 each to incorporate NITA – the National Industrial Television Association. Why? Purely and simply, we were embarking on a new media – videotape, and we needed a network of peers to help us make it work.

Coincidentally, about a year earlier, the Industrial Tape Society, ITS, was founded by a group of people from San Francisco with similar needs.

A few years later, we got together, settled our organizational differences and the ITVA was formed; incidentally, a New Jersey corporation. That merger was not without its share of resentment and some recrimination. We lost a few members and even whole chapters during that period. However, we came out of it with a much stronger and more vital organization.

Does all this sound similar to what happened when our board was faced with the need to reinvent ITVA? Of course. But then again, people in our business are, by nature risk takers. We’re always stepping out of the square, reinventing ourselves to keep up with needs of our clients and leverage the capability of new technology. So why not for the organization we need to keep us in touch with our business?

So, I am glad to see this organization revitalizing itself – in much the same way you, as designers, writers, directors, producers, editors have revitalized yourselves moving from video to multimedia – to the new media.

As to the future? Well, my crystal ball seems to have an Iraqi sandstorm going on inside right now, so it’s a bit murky in there, but here’s what I think.

In Dynamic Media in Transition, Austin and I defined model media production organizations for both in-house departments and independent production companies. At the core of these models is what we called integration of capabilities – the step beyond convergence; in consultant terms, the critical success factor. Our research found that corporate clients are increasingly looking for creative resources that offer a full gamut of services – they no longer have time or inclination to shop around. And, they’re willing to pay the price for that service.

In response, some media producers are expanding their organizations, adding staff and functionalities. Others are creating strategic alliances. Competitors become partners. Silo walls are breaking down. Print, video and IT people are actually talking with each other. I see more and more proof that this is the key to not only survival but growth as well and, more important, meeting the needs of clients.

For the long term, I’m convinced the media services industry will prosper. Not without some casualties, but sometimes that’s healthy as well. I believe the underlying fundamental business needs are there and growing.

In fact, I think there is significant pent up demand that should begin to be felt during the last half of this year, assuming the economy begins its rebound. In our economic cycle, business lags the economy. It ramps down pretty quickly in a downturn but is slower to ramp up when the economy recovers. Perhaps we’ll have a better fix on this when my next business trends analysis comes out in June. It will be available for reprinting in the Member 2 Member newsletter sometime this summer.

As for the present let me congratulate all those whose programs won awards, but also proclaim you all to be winners, whether you are leaving here with an award or not. I also extend that congratulations to our friends who are not here tonight but are certainly are still creating great work, quality results and high value for their clients.

This has been, is and will continue to be an exciting business and I look forward to an incredibly creative future.

Richard E. Van Deusen, Managing Director
Media Strategies, Inc.
17 Hampshire Drive
Mendham, NJ 07945-2003
Tel: 973.543.6695/Fax: 973.543.0166

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