Are You Highly Digital? Try This Test

Ipad Face by Camila Andrea In a Harvard Business Review blog post discussed last week by Mark Schaefer, authors Jeffrey Rayport and Tuck Rickards asserted that most big companies are too far behind the digital curve. By their standards, only nine of the Fortune 500 corporations are highly digital.

That’s no surprise. But what interests me is the four-part test they use to assess companies. Could it be adapted to individuals as a way of testing their own digital chops, I wonder?

The authors’ four criteria for highly digital companies are pretty straightforward:

  1. The company generates a high percentage of revenues digitally.
  2. Its leadership has deep digital experience.
  3. It does business enabled by digital channels.
  4. It is seen as transformational within its industry.

I’m not sure Rayport and Rickards sufficiently explain these criteria, but it doesn’t matter. My concern here is with adapting these four tests to individuals—and particularly to editors and journalists.

So let’s say, then, that you can consider yourself highly digital if you meet the following versions of their four characteristics:

  1. Most of the work you do appears in digital form either first or exclusively. Most of what you earn you only earn because your copy appeared online.
  2. You generate your work on your own, with little need for assistance, using a variety of digital tools. You manage your CMS yourself, you are equally comfortable tweeting and posting on Facebook, you even adjust code occasionally.
  3. Your work is uniquely digital in nature. In other words, you are not simply producing second-stage shovelware, but genuinely digital content, shaped to take full advantage of its digital medium.
  4. The people you work with look to you as a model of digital competence. Others come to you not just for help using WordPress or sizing an image, but also for advice on their new-media careers.

You may be wondering, “Is all this necessary? Why do I need to determine how digital I am?”

The answer, for me, is similar to what Schaefer says about companies: “social media success is not going to be a function of marketing vision or budget. It’s going to rely on radical organizational transformation.”

Likewise, for traditional journalists, the only way to ensure a healthy career in the new-media era is to undergo a radical professional transformation. My proposed test doubtless needs work—please pitch in with suggestions or improvements in the comments below or elsewhere—but its intent is sound.

Are you highly digital? If you’re not certain of the answer, maybe it’s time to find out.

Photo by Camila Andrea via Flickr

One Way the Web Will Change the Book

MUD day 6:

New-media enthusiasts, myself included, sometimes talk as though print is dying. That’s a strategic exaggeration, of course. No form of media is ever killed off by another. Rather, each new form of media transforms those that came before it, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. Consider for instance how painting was changed—even liberated—by photography, turning, in response, to new modes of expression like impressionism and cubism.

A Lesser Photographer by C. J. ChilversIn a similar way, I think, books will be liberated by digital media. That will happen in part because technology frees print from its reliance on paper and traditional, expensive production methods. But it will also happen because print will react and respond to the new forms of digital media, and function in new ways. Our very idea of what constitutes a book will be redefined.

One modest but telling example comes from the latest Tips from the Top Floor podcast, hosted by photographer Chris Marquardt. In it, he interviews C.J. Chilvers about his PDF book, A Lesser Photographer: 10 Principles for Rediscovering What Matters.

Chilvers observed that its length, just 25 pages, has prompted other authors he knows to ask “where’s the rest of it?” They argued that each of his 10 principles could be backed up with enough evidence and examples to make a much longer work. But, Chilvers said, “I feel that’s what the blog is for.”

There’s nothing new about pamphlet-length books, nor is the manifesto a new genre. But what does seem new to me is the way the Web has made it possible, even desirable, to distill what would otherwise be longer books into their essence, while offering other media to back it up, and provide the substance many readers will want.

I can’t say there will be fewer books in the future—in fact, their number may grow. But I feel certain that they will, on the whole, be shorter—and more useful.