I had the pleasure of meeting Rick Kaplan, former CNN president and founder of Kaplan Media Partners, at the University of Illinois in the early 2000’s when I worked for its College of Media. A big fan of teaching, especially at his alma matter, he was in town to guest lecture for a week. The interview, mixed with a love of current events and college football, led to friendship.
I take pride in being a connector of people to collaborate on bigger and better things. With Kaplan not even knowing my skill, he insisted on buying me copies of the newly released “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, which is all about the power of connectors, and “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman. To this day, I reference both, as does Kaplan.
Kaplan has always taken the time to listen as a friend and colleague when I’ve called on him. This was no different in the summer of 2013 when I wanted him to meet W2O Group president Bob Pearson and managing director Aaron Strout. Not even a W2O/WCG employee yet, I thought there were many conversations about how people consume content, media and what the future holds that would benefit all parties. This was true, and Pearson instantly asked Kaplan to be the PreCommerce Summit keynote for 2014 to kick off SXSW.
Not many people are storytellers like Kaplan, and he enjoys a perfectly honed anecdote. At the fourth-annual PreCommerce Summit, Kaplan delivered a keynote that began with the story of a male student’s website at Harvard University that was infuriating a study group’s co-eds. The co-eds asked their professor Kaplan to talk to said student about it. Kaplan laughed that he advised the student to take down what is now Facebook, which started as Facemash where visitors saw two photos side by side and decided if the person was “hot” or “not.”
Kaplan, winner of 47 Emmy Awards, nailed a “shareable” keynote with a Twitter reach of over 671,000. He went on to talk about content and encouraged a simple way to decipher what’s best from all the options. He said to look at what is it that people want to know, need to know and should want to know. With this, content becomes important and personal, because the intended consumer, viewer or reader will care.
- There is a serious credibility issue between consumers and marketing. “There is an air of distrust in the world.” Find content that really matters.
- Connect with viewers, users, consumers to find something different and new. Be the first in. Copying is easy.
- “The Defenders” historic TV episode about abortion and how Revlon had the courage to stand up for what was right. It paid off. Take chances to be a trailblazer when you believe in something.
- Cable and broadcast can’t survive in current state in five years with people fast forwarding through commercials. Advertisers are still kidding themselves about this.
- People are watching via computers and mobile which is shaping the future — fast.
- In regards to telling the entire story which is sometimes hard with 140 characters, “I’m like Martin Scorsese. I think Ben Hur is the beginning of a movie,” said Kaplan.
- Newsroom 3.0, as in season three of The Newsroom, is coming to HBO, and Kaplan is again assisting Aaron Sorkin. Season two centered around a story called “Genoa” that mirrored CNN, Kaplan and Peter Arnett’s experience and fallout with “Tailwind.”
- Tiered broadcasting is the future. The challenge is to continue the ad stream.