In the mid-fifteenth century, a German goldsmith became the first European to make practical use of movable type.*
The implications of Johannes Gutenberg’s technological advance were world-changing. For the first time a Bible could be produced that cost just 30 florins.
Printing presses soon spread across the continent, often run by Gutenberg’s countrymen. Scholars say a staggering 30,000 or more titles were published in the fifty years that followed.
To say merely that printing became accessible to a larger group and was a factor in the continued emergence of a viable middle class is to understate the magnitude of the knowledge revolution that ensued. Even though 30 florins was real money–three year’s salary for the information worker of the day, a clerk–Gutenberg’s press suddenly allowed for an exchange of information on a vastly greater scale. The results, including things as disparate as the novel and the modern nation-state, were unforeseeable before the singular moment that marked the invention of movable type.
What, you may ask, does all of this have to do with my company?
Only this: if you are running a widget company or a services company or a widget services company, you are now also running (compliments of the networking revolution) a media company. You now have both the means to inexpensively reach a global audience and the burden of doing so creditably if you are to survive, let alone thrive.
Because if you take all of the superlatives one might reasonably apply to Gutenberg’s revolution and multiply them by the population of the Internet squared, you arrive at something approximating today’s media explosion along with its implications, from the flat earth and the long tail, to the Facebook Friend and the Tweetup.
All of which means that if you want to avoid being a media company, you’ll have to quit being a company altogether.
The good news is the range of media options available to you has never been broader.
So, if you can manage (or find someone to help you manage) this mix of Balkanized, fragmented, ever-evolving media, you can do great and amazing things for your company.
And also for that company you didn’t know you had until now–your media company.
* the Chinese beat Gutenberg to the punch by several hundred years, but abandoned the idea as impractical for a language with thousands of ideograms.