Transformation is normal: dying is optional

Last week, in Australia, one of the country’s largest television networks entered a deal to “merge” with one of the largest newspaper publishers in the country. The deal between the Nine Network and Fairfax Media is the first media mega-merger since changes in the law that were previously in place and designed to stop the concentration of media power. But transformation in the media and many other industries has been happening for years. For a freelancer, this can be a source of both anxiety and opportunity.

There’s little doubt that when the parties in a “merger” – and I use the term advisedly in the case of Nine and Fairfax given Nine will have the larger share and it’s their name that will be kept – there will be changes for employees. When the new CEO says “efficiencies” we are all certain he means some staff will lose their jobs.

Fairfax Media is one of my current clients so I expect that there may be changes for me although when those might happen and what shape they may take are a complete unknown. But that’s the deal with freelancing. I trade the many benefits I receive for working freelance against stability. But I can see great opportunity in this even though there’s likely to be some uncertainty.

The reality is the media landscape has completely transformed over the last 15 years. the ad revenue that media companies relied on is gone and decades of giving the news away for free has resulted in the the general public regarding news as a low value product. News organisations haven’t helped with increasingly sectarian coverage that divides, rather increases, their audience.

All these changes have created a very different industry. While that’s been challenging for many to adapt to, resulting in many great journalists leaving the media to work in public relations and corporate communications, it also means people that can identify and exploit particular niches can carve out a good living.

Industrial change is not new. The invention of double entry accountant was a major force in establishing Florence as a financial, as well a cultural hub, during the Renaissance. The introduction of machines changed textiles during the Industrial Revolution and design software has completely revolutionised the creation of almost every object we use today.

In all those, and countless other changes, “old” jobs became redundant and new ones were created.

Here’s the challenge. When the industry you work in undergoes a change, do you worry about the work you’ve just lost or is you main focus on finding the next niche to exploit?

Many industry-shaping events are well beyond out control or influences. All we can control is what we do. Here’s how I see things.

There are things outside my sphere of control that can have an influence on me. But what I do about those things is in my control.

As Red says in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying”.

That means assessing the shifting ground and looking for where you can find a spot that allows you earn a living doing something you believe in.

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