That word: “disruptive” is showing up everywhere…typically in relation to social media of late. But disruptive technologies appear all through the history of civilization…it’s just happening at a faster pace now.
Disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology there.*
-The Printing Press
See? Thee’s no end to it, and there will be no end to it as long as innovation continues.
A couple of qualifiers about disruptive technology, though: Disruptive innovations are typically innovations in marketing. For example, the automobile was a revolutionary technological innovation, but it was not technically a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles.*
Also, it’s much more than just “businesses can’t keep up with the technology”, good firms are usually aware of the innovations, but their business environment does not allow them to pursue them when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough at first and because their development can take scarce resources away from that of sustaining innovations (which are needed to compete against current competition).*
These are important distinctions for freelance business people. We’re typically agile enough to keep up with the “disruptions”, but are we bold enough to take new innovations by the horns and risk the tried and true. How do these disruptions affect our Voice Over Market? How can you capitalize on them?
First, my list of 7 Disruptive Technologies that have shaped the current business of Voice Overs:
1) The Internet. So profound has been it’s effect that it’s hard to measure. The internet as a fundamental disruptor of the business of voice-overs has changed many of the accepted standards of the established paradigm; including auditioning, travel, communications, file management, real-time production-at-a-distance, coaching…OMG the list is endless! It’s at the heart of the rest of this list. Most disrupted: Business as usual with agencies and Unions due to Pay-2-Play services. The internet has disrupted their comfort factor.
2) Digital Storage/Transfer. No more cassette tapes (or analog ANYTHING), mailing envelopes, magnetic tape back-ups, or even CD’s. Enter: FTP, YouSendIt, ZipFiles, Carbonite, thumb drives (fading), Multi-Terabyte USB drives. Cheaper, more capacity, instant delivery, digital enhancement, and most of all, virtually no degradation of content with multiple copies.
3) The Cloud. I purposely left innovations like DropBox and SugarSync off the list included in #2 above. It deserves a place of its own because it’s dissrupting the disruptors. Not only are we moving to off-site cloud storage and transfer for almost all forms of content…but the cloud is also disrupting operating systems, computers, software, hardware, and speed of business and collaboration.
4) Live Studio-Quality Broadband Sessions. I’m talking next-gen ISDN. The extent of disruption with technology like Source-Connect is yet to be proven, but many would generally agree that ISDN is dying. It’s a slow death to be sure, but if nothing else the TelCo’s will force it to die. With the improvements in broadband drop-outs…Source-Connect, AudioTX IP, and even Skype present a disrupting market for hi-quality distance recording.
5) Tablet Computing/SmartPhones. A computer that replaces paper. Fits in your hand. Carrry it with you. Download from the cloud. Turn pages effortlessly and silently. Be in touch with your network, record on the go, edit on the go, audition on the go. What does tablet computing disrupt? Anything that requires physically handling paper: filing, bookkeeping, reading, learning, internet browsing, networking. This one is here to stay, and it’s mostly good.
6) Social Media. We’re not alone anymore. Sharing information, advice, techniques, rumors, and news is instantaneous, sometimes to its detriment. Social Media disrupts much of what was heretofore formal communication: letters, phone calls, and hard research on a target. Social media threatens the keeping of secrets, the maintenance of a subterfuge, and layers of protection. It’s not all bad. Just about ANYONE can be approached, contacted, and vetted thruogh social media. Which leads to #7.
7) Digital Marketing. Remember newspapear classifieds? Gone. Thanks Craig. Although it takes some finesse, a freelancer can successfully markekt themselves FOR FREE on social media. Forget the PR machine, the PSA, the Advertising Firms, and the agencies. You hold the key to your own marketing machine in your hand (see #5).
In the midst of all this disruption, there are several “sustaining” technologies: The Microphone being the most obvious example. Newer, better microphones do not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolve existing ones with better value.* Cables, mic-stands, pre-amps, desktops, laptops all fall in this category.
Now, back to the question: How to capitalize on disruptive technologies?
You’re doing it!
Many of us did not work in this field in the Don LaFontaine years of traveling to all the different studios to earn his way. We started out auditioning on the internet. Are you on FaceBook? Then you’re already engaging your potential customers, and marketing yourself in ways you probably aren’t even aware of. Much of embracing disruptive technology involves taking a bit of a leap…a calculated risk into new areas that may seem challenging, but within days, you’ll wonder why you waited so long! (iPad, SmartPhone).
Your challenge: Utilizing disruptive technology in disruptive ways that have not yet been pioneered. Who was the first VO coach to use Skype for long-distance learning? That’s a disruptive use of disruptive technology. Who got their first VO gig after engaging someone on Twitter? That’s a disruptive use of a disruptive technology.
Go for it!
* Verbatim information gleaned from a disruptive technology: WikiPedia. When’s the last time you saw an Encyclopedia Brittanica salesman at your door?