The Lean Media flowchart has undergone several iterations. In 2015, it looked like this:
The idea was feedback cycles could take place at any stage of the production up to the hard launch. The soft launch was an integral feedback stage, as it allowed a highly polished version to be exposed to a public audience and potentially tweaked before the hard launch.
Last year, I did away with the hard launch. My thinking was, in an era of digital production and distribution, why should creators even consider a final hard launch? A digital publisher can continue to make updates and improvements, and audiences can continue to revisit the media if it’s available online, in an app, or via a streaming service. In my publishing company, even print editions are regularly updated using low-cost print-on-demand services.
I further included only one prototype element in the chart, with the understanding that many prototype iterations might be involved. The updated version 0.6 looked like this:
But a few things bothered me.
For one, neither flowchart captured the path of serial media like a TV show or podcast, which have an official launch but keep on iterating in response to audience feedback and other factors.
Second, some creators will never touch their works ever again once they launch. However, I waved that scenario away as a legacy of 20th century thinking that will surely change as creators and producers embrace new approaches to creating media.
Feedback from a reader (and Lean Media practitioner) made me realize that I was not being realistic:
On soft launch, I frankly think you’re overextending the concept. At some point, you need to move on, both as a creator and as a business organization, and focus on new projects. Sure, certain very popular books are updated with new translations, forewords, or added chapters. And popular films may come out in special director’s cut editions. But still, the intention of the publisher for both of these examples is a “hard launch”. That they return to making a new edition doesn’t change this – the intention. I think what changes now, with what we do and what others can do with a lean, iterative process, is the way of making something. But hard launches will still remain.
He was right. And I realized that there are actually 3 distinct approaches that I somehow had to address in the framework and flowchart:
- Hard launches are more or less fixed; the team has no intention to iterate further and will move onto new projects afterwards.
- In contrast, a soft launch involves releasing a product to a small group of audience members in order to gauge interest, tweak features, and adjust marketing before the formal rollout.
- Staggered launches usually involve serial or multiformat media in which later versions draw upon the failures and successes of earlier releases.
So I have created another iteration of the flowchart that replaces “soft launch” with “flex launch.” In a Lean Media context, the flex launch version is highly polished, in a final or near-final state and is available to the public. It can take any of the three approaches described above. In a soft launch, a work can be quietly launched to a subset of the marketplace, such as a limited geographic area or a single distribution channel, with the goal of attracting feedback. Staggered launches for serial or multiformat media will also iterate based on feedback. However, the classic hard launch will still be used by some creators in connection with a major marketing campaign across the entire country, and no intention of iterating.
Here’s what the newest version looks like:
What do you think?