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Kramer Puts the 'C' in Change

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Larry Kramer was sitting in a meeting, bored stiff, the moment he realized the media world was hurling down an uncharted course.

It was 2005, and the founder of CBS MarketWatch had just started running CBS' new digital division. He was with a group, rewatching television pilots, when a news alert came through on his cell phone. Within fifteen minutes, without even leaving his seat, Kramer managed to do some of his own reporting by checking out other websites, shooting out emails and texts and watching video clips. "That was the moment when I realized, the game's changing, whether we like it or not," Kramer says.

That moment also offered a springboard for Kramer's new book, C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today. In it, the former newspaperman explores how companies might negotiate the four "change factors"—consumers, content, curation and convergence—transforming the media business. Rather than offer prescriptions or directives, Kramer surveys the shifting terrain. "I'm very optimistic business models will be found," he says. "[But] I don't think it's going to be one business model."

Take the Newsweek–Daily Beast merger. The combined outlets have the "potential to do something really well," he says, given the Beast's reporting and curation and Newsweek's well-established brand. Kramer also thinks charging for digital content that's distinctive, whether via paywalls a la The Wall Street Journal (which benefits from the perceived value of financial insight) or the iPad (for which media outlets must create specific products) will grow audiences as well.

Kramer says media producers should get a grip on tablets now, to avoid playing catch-up. "It's going to be a kick-ass medium," he says. "There'll be 50 million out there in a couple of years. Understanding this platform is going to be mission-critical."