This is a continuation of my blog series called Media Myths, based on my book Lean Media and some of the questions I get from people interested in the framework. You can see read the other posts here.
Lean Media is the same as Lean Startup
I hear this one a lot, particularly from people who have used Lean Startup to build software. They think the MVP/Build-Measure-Learn hypothesis can be neatly ported to the media world.
While Lean Media owes a lot to Lean Startup, it’s not the same. If you make media, the Lean Media framework can help you iterate smartly, informed by audience input and a minimum of interference. If you run a media company, Lean Media can help optimize teams, streamline decisions, and boost engagement.
It can also greatly reduce risk, or let creative and business leaders known when to pivot a media project in a new direction, or when to abandon projects that simply aren’t working out. There’s no shame in doing so, and your audiences will probably appreciate it!
While Lean Media may seem similar to the Lean Startup framework described by Eric Ries in the early part of this decade, there are some notable differences:
- Lean Startup is centered around the idea of building an MVP to show early adopters in order to test assumptions. Lean Media requires prototypes to show test audiences, but they can’t be minimal — as I say in the book, it’s critical to remove the “scaffolding” from the media work, such as editors marks, time codes, and other elements that will distract test audiences. Further, the test audiences don’t have to be “early adopters” or superfans — ordinary audiences are ideal.
- According to Ries, Lean Startup requires taking a scientific approach and using empirical data to validate assumptions. Lean Media can use quantitative data to help creators make decisions on how to iterate, but not everything is quantifiable, particularly when it comes to intangible elements and emotional responses that are not so easily measured.
- Lean Startup addresses products with defined characteristics such as a suitcase or SaaS application or printer cartridge, and uses a quantitative approach to test assumptions with audiences and iterate to the next stage. The people in the startup are practically required to follow where the tests take them, even if it goes against their personal preferences.
- Lean Media is only for informational and entertainment media, which seldom has practical value, only intangible value. Creators must also use qualitative data (not just quantitative) to understand what their audiences think during the development process, but they have the option of ignoring it, depending on whether they clash with the creative team’s vision.
- Lean Startup includes business-focused concepts, such as innovation accounting. The Lean Media the framework is only about product. While a media work that audiences love can be the basis for a successful business, in my book Lean Media I do not explicitly address how to make a media business profitable. That may very well be the focus of my next media book (working title: Niche Media). Stay tuned!