Keith Clinkscales has always been a trailblazer. He worked with Quincy Jones to found Vibe magazine in 1993, serving as President and CEO, then created in 1994. To put it in perspective: Clinkscales was making key investments in going digital a full 21 years ago. His career has been based on creative disruption.

Now, Clinkscales is bringing his love of innovation to REVOLT TV, the music-focused cable TV network from music megastar Sean Combs. REVOLT is building its business according to the rules of the 2015 media landscape, as opposed to the way the landscape looked when REVOLT was originally launched, in October 2013. The likes of HBO, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have completely disrupted the old paradigm, and "what is TV?" is no longer a silly question.

When asked to describe the fundamental ethos of REVOLT, Clinkscales doesn't miss a beat: "Delivering a media platform that is social by design, for the fans, by the fans, for the artists, by the artists. That's the platform we're trying to put together." The browser experience--which is wholly unique--is a perfect example. When visiting the website, it's clear that the experience was rethought from the ground up.

After all, the young adult audience that REVOLT is going after demands this attention to technology. "Their first screen is the phone--it's not the television," argues Clinkscales. "It's the screen they check more often than any other screen. You have to design the platform to take that into account. We built this place to make sure we're social by design. We think social first. We wanted to make sure that we got rights issues, and anything that would block social success, out of the way."

In Clinkscales' eyes, social success isn't possible without being acutely atuned to REVOLT's audience. "Not only does our audience have a voice, they're not afraid to use it to express their choices. Gone are the days where we're programming for them: the smart way is to make sure we're listening to them and incorporating their input into our product."

Clinkscales sees this as a magical time in music history. "If you're into music consumption, this is one of the best times ever in history, because you can get it any way you want to. Power is shifting and spreading out. Artists now have the opportunity to come out of nowhere. You can have something blow up on Soundcloud, or YouTube, or Vine, and before you know it you have buzz behind you."

A multi-pronged approach to social media is what makes REVOLT tick. Twitter, for example, lends itself to true engagement. When the network asks its audience questions, particularly on timely issues and relevant artists, it gets significant response and engagement. Instagram also works well for the network because of the lack of a character limit and the strong integration of visuals with text.

The more you hear about REVOLT's social by design approach, it becomes clear that it's intensely data-driven. Not in the "lip service" kind of way, but in actuality. REVOLT uses social media to get quantitative feedback by looking at metrics such as likes, loops, and plays. It's unstructured to some extent, but compared to the old days of relying on Billboard charts, it's a step in the right direction.

"You cannot be a disruptor and then complain about being disrupted. If you think about when Sean Combs started talking on records, that was disruptive. Quincy Jones never interrupted a record. The audience wasn't used to that. But Sean started doing it, and it became a signature, and many others followed."

That "many others will follow" mentality is the kind of mindset that will give Clinkscales and REVOLT a good chance of success in a particularly challenging media landscape. Other upstart businesses looking to make a splash in their sectors would do well to follow Clinkscales' implicit advice: be a disruptor. Find ways to innovate. Sometimes, the safest approach is actually less likely to leave your business standing in five years. Turn the old paradigm on its head and embrace disruption, and often you--and your audience--will be glad you did.

Published on: Mar 27, 2015
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of