Steve Rubel points out an article by Mike Elgan on how media companies have only themselves to blame. I found this statement in Mike's article to be especially relevant to the current business discussion:
Newspapers hawked their future in order to invest in the past. Those acquisitions were all about buying up antiquated companies who viewed their industry as a machine that converted trees into money, rather than as creator of content.
Every company that has been in business for a while is being dragged kicking and screaming into this new digital age. Digital is a new way of thinking about business, not just a delivery mechanism.
This is not a conversation about content, although your content matters. Nor it is about digitalization of business, you may be in an industry that does not lend itself to being digital - I cannot think of digital food, for example, or homes.
It's about the future, your future, which you may have seen coming for several years now without doing much to prepare for it. Newspapers thought they were in the print business, they focused on the medium business when they are in fact in the content business. Content is portable and relevant now more than ever.
Managing Risk is to Relationship Building
When I was in risk management consulting we stated that our product was a relationship - that was the focus of our business, and we did a number of things to honor that. Many of those things involved risk mapping, captive insurance management, reinsurance treaties, and they involved introductions to other companies that were a better fit for what clients were looking for.
The tools at our disposal were many, the model was to respect and grow relationships. That was one of the winning propositions (we've been talking about value propositions lately) that allowed us to peer around corners and win clients over the Goliaths of the day. Our model was portable and scalable and adaptable to newer media and tools.
Like Context is to Telecom Companies
Take telecoms as another example. If they think they are in the phone service and connectivity business, building and maintaining pipes and networks, they have lost to many free or near free tools like Skype, for example. So if they do not wish to be a commodity, these companies need to realize that they are in the context building business.
The iPhone was the true eye-opener in that respect. Not just a smart phone, but a delivery mechanism that created context for content, communications, services and yes, commercial transactions (iTunes) to be performed.
Preparing for the Future
Print media is learning this lesson the hard way - enormous losses, layoffs, and bankruptcy filings.
The financial industry is learning its lesson as well from the laws of probability - according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, small probability events carry large impacts, and (at the same time) these small probability events are more difficult to compute from past data itself [...] past Black Swans do not predict future Black Swans in socio-economic life.
We may not be able to predict the future. Yet, we need to prepare for it. Preparation starts with a solid grounding in the understanding of what business we're really in.
What does this mean to you?
- Peel back the medium and figure out the "what" you deliver and where the digital opportunity for that resides. Then figure out how to make the what an experience that nobody else provides.
- Be ready to challenge your assumptions when it comes to inferring the future from the past. The laws of probability are in favor of taking the leap onto a new model when extrapolating from current observable trends.
Preparing for the future needs to take into consideration how your products and services are being used by your customers and what that means for your business model. What business are you in?