When you think of Discovery, you probably think of Shark Week, Mythbusters, and other networks the company owns. But how did it become one of the biggest media companies in the world? The story starts with an ambitious CEO who knew he had to act quickly to stay ahead. See how it all unfolded by reading on!
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1. How did Discovery get started?
Discovery was started in 1993 by Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa, Andrew Hunt and Jeffrey Raider. They were students at Wharton who saw a need for eyeglasses that were stylish and didn’t cost very much. They were inspired by Warby Parker, which had launched in 2010, and they saw an opportunity to provide the same service for prescription glasses.
Scott Fishkin at Caffeine
Before long, they had developed the world’s first retinal display technology and were producing glasses that had a much improved readability and clarity over typical glasses. The Time Magazine article that heralded the launch named the Foursome of Genius as the company, but our story begins a little earlier.
The Foursome of Genius
In 1997, The Foursome of Genius were invited to serve as scientific consultants for Time Magazine. All were colleagues from the School of Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania.
In a very serendipitous way, the foursome had all fallen into smart glasses while on a ski trip together in Aspen, Colorado — helmets, ski goggles and eyewear designed to magnify and focus the images on the lenses. While they returned home, Time Magazine wanted to know if there were potential commercial benefits to wearing smart glasses with their current audience. We’d seen the first generation of smart glasses at the time and were convinced of the potential. The tests showed that even modest audiences were quite impressed. So the team decided to test the technology on a bigger, commercial audience. We made glasses that were lighter, more stylish, and commonplace enough to wear everywhere. Out of the 150,000 people who visited the Human Interface Technology Conference being held in San Francisco in October 1998, 35% said they’d recommend the glasses to others. So we focused our efforts on the biggest, most lucrative, most promising market segment for smart glasses.
The Last Stop
The sparkling new generation of smart glasses came out in 2001, but I thought the revolutionary features of the headset were overshadowed by the fact that also came in a slick, black-and-white design.
2. How did Discovery beat the competition to become the most popular network in the world?
Four star links:
Mashable has an article about How Millennials Are Watching TV (Who Does and Doesn’t Get It). Basically, the article is a look at how a lot of Millennials are using DVRs and using their TV as the “second screen.” As the article points out, it’s also connected to their Generation Z obsession, which makes sense—no one is really sure what Internet is.
Apparently Groupon takes massive pride in their customer service. That’s how loyal they are, apparently. Richard Kingsford wrote a blog on how Groupon tends to always win at customer service:
What customer service does is it makes you feel special. Every customer service interaction by us is one you’ll remember; everyone at Groupon keeps in touch.
If you want to sit close to your friends or get a picture with them on that handheld device, you deserve to be comfortable; your hair will be neat and combed, your food ticket punched and you’ll be soaked and clean when you get home. If you want to get in touch with us anytime, anywhere, share a burger or fries or whatever you want with your friends—that’s what can happen today. Any time.
We’ve got a blog… so there are messages at least 5.3k characters in!!! Ugh, when I have a life…
ReadWriteWeb examines 50 companies that have launched a Twitter voice search product. I wonder what all the competitors are doing that’s better than what these guys have done?
Finally, Utilizing Web-Based Traffic Optimization to Achieve Higher Rankings.
3. What is Discovery’s future like?
Discovery is one of the few companies that will be around in 50 years because it’s not just about the product that they sell. It’s about the service that they provide to their customers. People will always want to discover new things.
What did it take to get them there?
Living in a world where billions of search queries are executed every single day, cranes and cranes of marketing dollars are being allocated to “monetize those queries.” Having spent eight years at my previous job, I think it’s safe to say millions of search queries pass through my head every single day that people searching for entertainment, food, and personal care products are looking for these types of services. And that provides an amazing amount of opportunity to drive repeat business.
Our goal was to answer a notification for one person per minute on our customer service phone. If a business wasn’t continuously answering questions for that particular query, it would be a closed query and be moved to the “Ignored” list. Of course, that close-to-million person-per-minute volume meant that we could afford to do it at scale across multiple business locations.
Once completed, we got to work.
We looked at what people were looking for on Twitter, Google, and other platforms, as well as what was simmering right under the surface: people reporting that they had an unsatisfactory experience with a brand, what that brand was offering, and what kinds of responses people were getting when they contacted the brand. From there we developed a concise set of suggestions for the brand that were aligned to our core mission: To offer information that helps people better understand and satisfy their needs.
What did we learn?
After two weeks of collecting tons of data and analyzing it, we produced some key insights:
We asked people whether they’d try our brand again because they were unsatisfied.
Conclusion: The company reached its goal of becoming a global media giant, and has thus far managed to stay ahead of the competition.
Today, the New York Times is one of the most prestigious publications in the world, and it’s used as a benchmark for other publications. Since the New York Times Company has been around for more than 150 years, it has withstood many changes in the media landscape, but has still managed to stay relevant with the times.When the New York Times takes a look at its business, they realize that they need to generate widespread awareness and trust from their audience. They realized early on that to do that, they needed to figure out how to win on the Internet, and because of this, they decided to launch a rocket network aimed at dominating the news world. What exactly did they believe they needed to do to accomplish this? They ended up coming up with a simple question that would ultimately shape their quest for attention: “Who doesn’t want to be the first to know?”
Successfully building a rocket network requires tremendous organizational focus using only the resources where you want to go. And being able to apply this type of mindset to your entire business can only be the start. For the New York Times Company, some of the key players responsible for this are listed below:
Henry Lucey: Founder of Time Inc, author of Irresistible
Sam Zell: Director of Time Inc., founder of largest U.S. motion picture company
Greg Mortenson: Vice president and partner at LendMeContent
Patricia Harris-Pincus: Publisher at Time Inc.
Although the timeline for achieving these early objectives isn’t defined, it seems the key players got behind this long before formal launch. It’s also important to note that all of these people had quite a bit of experience at building and growing media corporations.
It Was Harder than You Thought
If the New York Times were to establish their own venture capital fund, they didn’t want to start with hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead, they therefore decided to start small, dipping their toes in with a small, seed round.