Electronic Disruption Not Just for Media

Whatever you think of global warming as a scientific phenomenon, from the perspective of John Kotter’s penguin fable it is undeniable that economic icebergs are melting from underneath all sorts of businesses and their employees.

Time magazine announced some huge changes this week, and Jeff Jarvis, as usual, has a spot-on commentary. I found this statement particularly compelling:

I think that general-interest magazines may well be fated to fade away. General-interest anything is probably cursed. For the truth is that interest never was as general editors and publishers thought it was, back in the mass-media age. Old media just assumed we were interested in what they told us to be interested in. But we weren’t. We’re proving that with every new choice the internet enables.

Yet special-interest magazines — community magazines, to put it another way — have a brighter prospect — if they understand how to enable that community.

Time‘s travails, the ouster of the LA Times‘ editor for refusing to adapt to economic realities, the continued decline of newspaper readership, and Gannett’s more realistic approach to the kinds of changes needed for long-term success in the news business highlight the pace and extent of change we all face.

Large, established news media organizations probably feel this most acutely, because they have seen their core business as creating, editing and distributing content to mass audiences. Too often they also have tacked “on paper” to the end of that sentence (or some other specific medium that reflects the way they have always done it.) As technology drives the costs of developing and distributing content toward zero and choices multiply, the erosion of mindshare for the old-media oligopoly is inevitable.

But although those working in media may feel the changes most acutely (or at least have a bigger megaphone, even in a fragmented media landscape, to talk about it), icebergs are melting in all sorts of industries.

The New York Stock Exchange announced this week that it would cut employment by 17 percent, or 500 jobs, largely through and because of more electronic trading.

Amazon’s S3 service (I need to look into this) offers unlimited data storage and transfer at low flat rates, enabling start-ups or more established companies to focus on building their business and traffic, instead of how to scale their server space. Don MacAskill, CEO of SmugMug, details how S3 has saved his company well over $500,000 in the last seven months, and how he expects savings of well over $1M in 2007. He was spending that money somewhere else before he made the change to S3, so for whoever those vendors were, some warm water is coming under their iceberg.

Congratulations to those organizations that are keeping their eye on meeting needs and serving customers, and finding ways to meaningfully contribute. Not all will be successful. But it’s great to see organizations like CBS sending out “scout penguins” by launching a service like this, to see if this is a way to provide information people want.

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Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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