Arrows fly among old, old and old, new and new, new media

This is getting really confusing to me, and I thought I had a program to keep up with the players on each side. But apparently, at least according to this reuters story about “Old media turning combative against new media”, Time Warner Inc. CEO Richard Parsons is the “old media” (or, for this metaphor, the “Sioux nation”) And then, in a quote that must have both historians and tech pundits (or perhaps just me) scratching heads this morning, he says:

“The Googles of the world, they are the Custer of the modern world. We are the Sioux nation…They will lose this war if they go to war…The notion that the new kids on the block have taken over is a false notion.”

What makes this so curious is this: On December 20, 2005, Time Inc. and Google took a big drag off a peace-pipe when Google paid Time $1 billion for a 5% stake in AOL. At the time — before his “Sioux nation” vs. Custer act, Parsons said this:

“We’re very pleased to build significantly on our special relationship with Google in a way that will meaningfully strengthen AOL’s position in the fast-growing online advertising business and help drive more advertisers to its Web properties. This agreement is key to fulfilling our commitment to realize the potential of AOL’s very large online audience. As digital technologies continue to drive industries together, the great value and opportunity inherent in Time Warner’s structure and array of premier businesses becomes increasingly clear. A critical piece of this strategic alliance will be our content, which we will be making more accessible to Google users.”

In other words, when “the last stand” was fought, Chief Parsons didn’t realize it was the Battle of Little Bighorn.

And also, did history stop with Custer’s defeat? It can be argued (to follow Parson’s metaphor a bit) that Custer was merely an executive who mis-managed a specific business segment and got canned, really canned. Maybe I’m a getting fuzzy on my history, but didn’t the Sioux nation (Mr. Parson’s “old media”) ultimately lose the cable franchise to the folks Custer was working for?

Helpful lesson: Historical analogies are always tricky. When Parsons said, “they will lose this war if they go to war,” but then used a classic “battle” to explain what he meant, he fell into a rookie trap: in war, losing a battle and winning a war, are not the same. He would have perhaps been better off choosing the role of Custer in his metaphor: admitting that old media has been clobbered in some of the early skirmishes with Google, but that, in the end, after a trail of tears….Actually, come to think of it, I don’t think that metaphor would have played out politically correctly, so perhaps it’s best to drop the whole war thing.