Throughout history, technologies have emerged that rock our worlds, completely changing the way media is consumed. But for every VHS (you know, how we used to watch movies?!) there’s a Betamax — a functional, cutting-edge technology that just didn’t have staying power. At the time, the decision between adopting VHS technology vs. Betamax may have seemed arbitrary, but had you invested aggressively into Betamax, your business likely took a punch to the gut.

New ways to produce, consume and share content are always emerging, so it’s important to establish decision guidelines; when should you jump on new trends and when should you simply stick with what you know best? Jump too soon, you might suffer a Betamax blunder. Jump too late and you risk being viewed as old-fashioned.  

Here are some guidelines to consider before making a decision on new trends:

How important is it to you to be first?

We see this a lot with TV stations whose weather departments bring in ratings. Is it of value to you to sport the first Super Duper Doppler Radar? Basically, how much value do you place on being first? Weigh the risk vs. reward. MediaSource was involved in one the the first live surgeries performed and recorded by a surgeon wearing Google Glass. We were familiar with our client’s interest in being positioned as a trendsetter, so with that in mind it was clear to us that it was worth the cost to be first in this case.

How confident are you in the trend’s staying power?

Before MediaSource launched our Multimedia Newsroom in 2008, which was designed to enable journalists to download high-quality video files for use online and in newscasts, we surveyed journalists at news media outlets. Only 2% said they used downloaded media at the time, but among those 2% were our big-name media partners at ABC, NBC and CBS. These outlets indicated to us that downloaded media represented the future of media, so we pressed forward aggressively and invested in a cutting-edge way to host high-quality media content for easy download. The prediction panned out, and now newsrooms everywhere host downloadable media.

Can you risk the gamble?

Weigh the costs associated with adopting a new technology. Based on your budget, if you go all in on a new platform and it doesn’t pan out, will your company survive the change in direction? One way to conservatively stay on the cutting edge is to adopt the 80/20 rule.

A good policy for investment into new technology is to allocate 80% of your resources into proven tactics — what you’re already doing — and 20% into new tactics with potential. With this approach, you can maintain results for your brand while showing a commitment to innovation. When it becomes clear the technology has some staying power, you will be in the advantageous position of being prepared to pounce without having broken the bank.

New technologies can make or break your business, so walk yourself through these decision-making principles before each decision to stay on the cutting edge!