Ken Locker: Always At the Leading Edge05 Aug 2014, Posted by Advice for Aspiring Producers, English as a Second Language, Expert Interviews, interactive television, kids' media, Mobile App Development in
Ken Locker is the COO of the Living English Company, which has created an integrated cloud based software platform for companies that employ Hispanic blue-collar workers who do not speak English well. It offers a complete mobile app for administrators, supervisors and workers, incorporating language learning, vocational training and workforce managementHe has more than twenty years of senior management experience in the media industry, with expertise in digital content production, game and app development, distribution, online video operations and monetization, social media and marketing. Previously, Ken was the Chief Operating Officer of Film Domain Media Group, which offers multi-platform digital VOD channels to expatriate communities throughout the world. Ken has held senior management positions at The Cookie Jar Group, a diversified children’s entertainment and educational company, Comedy Central and MGM Studios.
- 1. What kind of work did you do before you got involved with interactive digital media? How and why did you make the switch?
I began my professional life as a photographer doing fine art, fashion and editorial. I became a documentary cinematographer and ultimately a producer and executive in the television industry, producing movies and mini series.
- 2. How is developing tech products similar to or different from developing films?
In both instances you ultimately have to appeal to an audience. Film and TV are linear experiences and tech products are non linear and interactive. A completely different paradigm.
- 3. What are you most proud of in terms of career accomplishment?
In my documentary career I produced the film Backstage at the Kirov (1983), it won numerous awards and was an inside view of a unique intuition during the final days of the Soviet Union. At MGM we launched the first James Bond website, at Comedy Central we put South Park and the Daily Show Online.
- 4. We call this blog, Influences and Influencers, who are the people who have influenced you? Have you ever had a mentor? Can you tell us about him or her? Whose work or input has impacted you the most in your career and how?
When I was transitioning from the TV industry to the digital and interactive field, I had the opportunity to work with Jonathan Seybold. His father had invented electronic publishing in the 60s and 70s and Jonathan, who was the father of desktop publishing, was a true visionary who very early on saw that computing, communications and content would merge to become a new media. I worked with his consulting company, which has just been acquired by Ziff Davis, putting on seminars and conferences focused digital media. It was an extraordinary, by the seat of your pants, learning experience on multiple levels.
- 5. What is the most surprising result you experienced in your career? For example, is there a product you intended for one demographic that turned out to be more appropriate for a completely different one? Was there a product you thought was a sure winner that bombed? What did you learn from this experience?
I have had many products I was certain would be big hits fail miserably. One of the more interesting successes was a children’s game I developed as SVP of Digital media for The Cookie Jar Group. It was based on an anime style cartoon series called Spider Rider. As Cookie Jar was a Canadian Company we applied for and received a $250,000 government media grant. Our goal was to produce a simple multiplayer strategy game that would promote the TV series, which was on Cartoon Network in the U.S. The weekend we launched the game the interest was so intense that it crashed our servers. Within a very short time we had more than 6 million users from all over the world – much larger than the TV audience.
- 6. What product or service have you seen lately that really excites you?
It sounds like a cliché, but I continue to be excited by cloud computing and mobile devices. In the early 90s the vision was that the “ the network was the computer”. Twenty years later that has finally come to pass. I keep most of my data in various cloud storage services and with my phone, tablet or computer can access what I want when I want. We take all of this for granted – it wasn’t all that long ago when if you needed to make a phone call from out of the house you had to find a pay phone, if you wanted to reach some quickly for business purposes you had to use a telex – as long as the internet doesn’t go down life is good.
- 7. What are you working on now?
I am launching Living English a start up company that is a mobile training and workforce management tool for companies that employ blue collar Hispanic workers who don’t speak English well.
- 8. What advice would you give an aspiring interactive producer or media executive? If someone wanted to get into this field, how would you advise them to start?
The media landscape is changing at lightening speed. The future media consumers are todays kids, the infamous “digital natives” who have only know a world where the internet is always on, everyone has a phone/tablet or PC. I would focus on this group and try to understand and predict their habits – if possible.
- 9. You have held executive positions in large corporations and start-ups. Which do you prefer and why?
It’s apples and oranges. In a large organization you have lots of resources, but forces that are completely out of your control can determine your destiny. In a start up you have much more control of your future and, if successful, much greater rewards.
- 10. If you could start all over again, what career would you pursue?
I’m pretty satisfied with my career path. There have been ups and downs, but overall it has been fulfilling.