Rootgate: it’s getting worse and worse

Test_patternNice work by Brad Hill over at Digital Music Weblog on efforts by CEO  Howard Stringer to sort out the Sony copy protection debacle.

Howard Stringer’s much-publicized remarks about Rootgate, issued at CES, are so clueless as to amount nearly to a denial of reality. "Clearly the perception out there is that we shouldn’t be doing too much of that copy protection stuff." Actually, that’s not the main perception, though I wish it were.


But here’s where Stringer seems to be improvising wildly: "…protecting the artist’s right is not something that should be automatically dismissed by the push-and-pull generation." I’m sorry–the what? Did he say the push-and-pull generation? Is this a sexual reference? Does he mean the rip-and-burn generation? The point-and-click generation?

Brad decides that Stringer means the "on-demand" generation and this is, I think, a pretty good guess.  But this is odd.   Why are any of us having to guess when listening to a chief executive give  a formal address in the public arena on a matter of grave import to the Sony corporation.  (Especially when the speaker is an Oxford man, with a masters in history.  This is a guy who spent his life in an educational system that prizes clarity above all things.)

"Push and pull generation."  Perhaps Howard wishes to evoke young teens inclined to minor assault on a fair ground.  Does Howard feel like he’s been wilded?  Has this recent controversy about rootgate leave him feeling like he’s been "jumped in?"  Is this what the consumer looks like to the top man at Sony, a fractious crowd capable of minor violence and non-felonious assault?

If ever there were a measure of the gap between corporations and their consumers, the Rootgate debacle is it.  It demonstrates that Sony "does not get" the new contract and connection that is being fashioned slowly but surely between the two.   But then the CEO stands up and in the place of a full recantation treats us to phrases that are either a further demonstration of how little he understands his consumers, or a revelation of the disquieted assumptions he entertains about them. Most odd.

There is something impressive about this kind of candor, even if it is a little baffling.  I mean normally CEOs are scripted by PR and wander off script at their peril.  We are grateful for this opportunity to stare into the world view of the CEO (if that’s indeed what we have done).  Stringer is impressive: Oxford degrees, military service, Japanese speaker, distinguished career as a journalist, effortless administrator.  There is apparently nothing this guy can’t do.  So why can’t he get in touch with contemporary culture and the new marketplace?


Hill, Brad.  2006.  Howard Stringer’s Push and Pull Generation.  January 11, 2006. here.

7 thoughts on “Rootgate: it’s getting worse and worse

  1. Tom Guarriello

    Stringer was using Web-geek vernacular. “Push” is what gets done with most marketing emails, like spam. “Pull” is what gets done through subcription, like RSS. The “push-pull generation” seems to have been a reference to those who use those terms freely. Definitely too “inside baseball” for a general audience speech. And the whold rootkit issues is such a debacle, that it calls Stringer’s leadership capabilites in this complex world into question…Oxford education aside.

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  3. Grant

    Tom, I know the terms, thank you, which makes me doubt that Stinger is using them as you suggest. They are after all mutually exclusive, so combining them doesn’t make any sense logically. And in any case, what remote sense would it make to describe the segments in question with this language…especially in this context? Could he mean “they wish to be served and to help themselves?” Does this mean he thinks of them as contrary, wilful, indulged? Would this be a species of CEO peevishness. I think it’s more likely the guy was just flying by the seat of his pants. And on this issue! Thanks, Grant

  4. Tom Guarriello

    Seems to me he was referring to the generation for whom “push” and “pull” have digital significance, regardless of the particular, contradictory, meanings of those terms. “Willful,” “headstrong,” “entitled,” may very well have been his point. I agree that it was a peevish reach. But, an interesting one.

  5. M E-L

    Maybe it’s supposed to be shorthand for “push [a button,] pull [out a (stolen) digital file?]” Or maybe he’s confused about what P2P stands for. Or maybe it’s a reference to the “PushMePullYou” in Dr. Doolittle! Yeah, that’s it.

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