Three Things from Code

— Pete Wootton, EVP 

One of the best quotes shared at Vox’s Code Conference last week came from the talented writer and director Jill Soloway, creator of “I Love Dick” and “Transparent,” two Amazon original series.

Soloway told conference co-host Kara Swisher and the audience that while attending the Oscars with CEO Jeff Bezos, she asked him for advice on how she should balance her desire to have greater societal impact in her life, versus being a television writer and director.

His answer to her was basically, “The way that you make change with story is so much faster than the way politics can make change.” 

Well then, hell YES for the news business, brands, storytellers and communicators alike, right? Right!

And coincidentally, the anecdote was a fitting summation for the confluence of dialogue at this year’s Code about content, technology, the news media and politics.

Code is now in its fourth year, and the 15th if you include those done under the D Conference banner when it was owned by the Wall Street Journal. Over the years — and as the technology industry has evolved and grown in the way we think about it — programming has shifted, and the audience mix has changed as well. Original speaker lineups were flush with founders, startups and technologists from the large software and hardware players, and the attendees were largely C-level, along with some venture capitalists.

As the industry has evolved, and content companies have begun to move the TV medium online in richer (literally and figuratively) ways, the media, entertainment and news media companies such as HBO, CNN, Disney, Time Warner, Netflix, The New York Times and Viacom started to have a greater and regular presence and inclusion. And as technology policy became a major battle ground for companies playing in these spaces, you saw the addition of various government officials, lawyers, senators and the like. Now this year, you can add former Secretary of State, Senator and U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Here are a few insights from this year’s conference that I will leave you with:

  • Fake news, real news and the social platforms they travel on were all in focus this year, with a renewed call to fix the business of local news. There were calls by Dean Baquet, Clinton, and several other speakers and attendees that the failing business models of the local media was proving to have greater societal impact that might have once been imagined, from both a political and a communal standpoint.
  • The intersection of technology and the global public sector at large is here to stay. Each year, for the past several years, the steady rise of elected or appointed officials on stage has been noticeable and welcome. Again, it is a good and natural thing, considering where the technology and impact dialogue is happening.
  • Culture and purpose are requisites for your business and your story.

There was a time not so long ago in the technology industry where “the tech” was the center of the story. The tech, of course, is important, but it is not the story; the story is a blend of the impact that the technology has, how tech drives the business, and most importantly, the societal impact tech has at large and with employees and other stakeholders. This proved out in a more poignant way this year in the programming and attendee conversation. It seems obvious enough, but unfortunately, this line of thinking is not as front and center at most conferences as one might hope. This is definitely a welcome evolution of a conversation that for too long missed a higher-order bit.

Insights provided by Pete Wootton, Executive Vice President, WE