I have been enjoying the press coverage of News Corp’s purchase of Wireless Generation. This is a hugely progressive move and one which could point to an entirely different developmental direction for News. However, repeated doses of hype from the buyer’s PR department induced a light sleep, during which I found that I had typed the following dialogue. Of course, any resemblance of this to the truth of the matter is entirely co-incidental, and since I do not know the people whose words I have imagined this should be treated as the fiction it really is.
SCENE: A boardroom somewhere in Manhattan. The Strategy Team are all assembled and are talking in hushed tones when the Chairman comes in. He addresses the Head of Strategy (HoS):
RM (for it is He): Well, guys, have you got the answer to the little problem I set you?
HoS (gulps nervously): Well, Chairman, we think so. We looked at DMGT, the FT, GMG and the Washington Post as you commanded, and they all have one thing in common. Somewhere within each of them there is a potentially game saving educational play, and it appears that investors and analysts believe, or can be encouraged to believe, that this is a hedge against the wheels coming off the newspaper industry.
RM (growls): No wheels are coming off my papers – we’ve got satellite and network television to keep them warm. And don’t tell me the pesky internet will undermine them too. Tell me about the Education Hedge.
HoS: Well, what you need is something Startlingly Digital, which hasn’t been seen and rejected by Pearson already. Then we can claim we are going to leapfrog everything and establish a unique positioning. We fancy something in assessment, with an automation/productivity angle so that you look like a benefactor of those grossly overworked teachers.
RM: I warm to this, despite the fact that these self-same teachers are too often dangerous radicals, and some are Democrats. And none of them read or watch our stuff. Say, could we do a Fox Education channel?
HoS: Perhaps a later step, Sir. Meanwhile we fancy Wireless Generation, a sound technology, deep in assessment and labour-saving, and not in any of those troublesome curriculum areas. But we think as a preparatory step you should retain a real education figure, to advise and to indicate our corporate will to enter this field. Mr Klein is just leaving the leadership of the New York School systems and would be ideal.
RM: What, a Clinton man! But I see the point – you want us to seem bi-partisan and above the fray. A sort of Mr White- and- Klein (Carruthers, make a note of that for the next edition of The Wit and Wisdom of RM, coming for Christmas from Harper Collins).
HoS: Precisely, Sir. Then we make an initial purchase, planning to spend around $360m, and start to build a division. Soon we shall have our own Kaplan.
RM: And a completely new departure for me. Education, eh? Did I ever tell you what happened to me at Oxford…
HoS: No, Sir. But we could dress this up as continuity, since you already own an educational publisher.
RM (slightly nervously): We do? Not somewhere important, I hope?
HoS: Actually, no, Sir. It’s in London and part of Harper Collins there.
RM (morosely): No one tells me anything! And London – you know, those limeys are trying to stop me buying the rest of Sky – and trying to win the Ashes Down Under as well.
HoS: Sorry I mentioned it, Sir. But cheer up – you are no longer Australian or British but American, and we can concentrate Education here. A little Agile Publishing and we shall soon be on our way with a development unit.
RM: Now watch Agile. I am no longer a young man. But we can certainly move quickly. We can do The Daily Education on the iPad, and deliver a Killer Sudoko App with it. Can’t fail.
HoS: We should leave it to the Professionals, Sir. You can’t get stuck into Education like a mass media environment.
RM: But that’s what you said about My Space, when we bought something we didn’t understand, and kept having to hire new sets of Professionals and now I am No 2 and sinking. We are even sending the FaceFellows or whatever they are called our customers. Please promise me it isn’t one of those?
HoS: No, Sir, it isn’t. It will work just like Kaplan.
RM: OK, lets go for it. Buy this Bush radio (or was it Telegraph), but if I have to do Agile publishing give me agile margins as well. Now, next problem. I seem to be unable to work the page turner on my beta Daily – and you told me it would be “just like a newspaper”…
Around this time I awoke, and found my dreaming had resulted in a fantasy.keep looking »