Buggy whips and newspapers

Few things are etched into our memories like coffee and the morning paper. Good news…the coffee part appears to be sticking around.

The disruption currently hitting the newspapers isn’t ‘news’ as the print industry has been on a slide since the 90’s. What is new is the seemingly schizophrenic moves of  Warren Buffett’s big investment in two dozen small newspapers, several major papers like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Le Monde moving their websites to ‘paywalls’ and some mid-sized city papers ending daily delivery. Both paywalls and reducing delivery won’t work. The true customer of the news is the advertiser. Fewer readers and fewer papers tossed on porches means less advertising. The math part is very simple.

Into the abyss

Will investment like Buffet’s work? No. He chose small markets in tight communities where real estate values and his interest charges protect his investment. Buffett’s professed nostalgia for newspapers aside, it made business sense. The trend is unmistakably downward for the business that has starred in so many movies, was the first job for millions and is now thrashing about in the perfect combination of rich and powerful meets broken business model. Few were mightier or more monopolistic than the hometown newspaper. Journalistic ethics were the check against abuse of that monopoly, but none of us are so naive to believe it was always fair and unbiased. The political power wielded every election cycle was enormous and corrupting. I’m not sure the demise of such an institution is a bad thing.

We the people

Like many disrupted landscapes, what is emerging is fresh and exciting. News now travels from a cellphone at a protest in Tehran to my computer screen in seconds, unimpeded by a government, a news monopoly, or any sort of spin. I’m not saying citizen journalism is the same as professional reporting, but is it less valuable or less reliable than what’s been interpreted for us by CNN, BBC or AFP? What we’re seeing is a democratization of information. This democratization can be expected to disrupt broadcast television, despite their unique content and focus on sports. TV began to die the day HBO decided to produce content and accelerated when video streaming became workable.

Around the corner

Pointing out what has been disrupted is easy. Figuring out what comes next, on the other hand, is harder and incredibly valuable. Our best guesses would be:

  • Software –  Especially ERP, what everyone loves to hate, but monolith applications in general will become dinosaurs. Discreet, interchangeable components will dominate. Platform as a Service is arriving now.
  • Pharmaceuticals – Clinical trails will become faster and more data-driven, shortening testing cycles and time to market
  • Energy – Forecasting, conservation and efficiency will be increasingly driven by data
  • Logistics and transportation – Pricing is becoming more transparent and real-time logistics are here with all of its data and decision needs

This is just a quick list but if your industry is one facing disruption, it may be time to be out in front rather than a victim of what’s coming.


Categories: Disruption, Strategy

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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  1. Digital disruption is coming to get you. Brace yourself. | Successful Workplace - October 4, 2012

    […] is plenty of evidence that technology is changing businesses. You only have to look at the print and publishing (newspapers and magazines), music industry (CDs and merchanising) and movies (films and DVD) to see […]

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