A week in Munich

I spent the last week in Munich at Burda — thus the blog silence — talking with my friends at Focus Online and at Burda magazines, ending yesterday spending a day with five smart Voluntäre — professional trainees on a two-year program of work and education at the company. Their task was to brainstorm a project that reinvents the future, coming up with an idea in a day that they’d build in two months. I was there to facilitate and not screw it up. And because I was there, they had to brainstorm in English, which struck me as an added degree of difficulty (I began every spiel at Burda apologizing, auf Deutsch, for speaking such frightful German that I had to speak English; it made little difference considering how wonderfully all these people speak English — an embarassment for me).

We talked through all the possible media — blogs, video, wikis, and so on — and targets and topics and they came out with two great ideas. Actually, they had a half-dozen, but my job was to get them to focus on one and we outlined the content and audience, marketing and revenue strategies, and relationships to the existing brands. As I looked at the list, I saw that they’d concentrated on changing the voice, the distribution, and the relationship with the public. I won’t give away their ideas until they’re launched.

Every media company should have such a program and such a day. I’ve been told that the secret to MTV’s success is that it is reallly run by its interns. Having interns and giving them the respect to both train them and listen to them is vital today for the obvious reason: They understand the future better than the rest of us.