Changing with the tides of business and culture

This post by Scott Karp on how industries change is multilayered.

He seems to be suggesting the print will die completely.

I’ll bet that in ten, maybe even five years, that warehouse on the river will be storing something other than newsprint ” or it will be demolished entirely.

But his comparison between shipping and newsprint doesn’t suggest that print will die so much as it will change.

These steps lead up from the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial and were designed by Washington’s architect and urban planner, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, to be a grand gateway to Washington, where dignitaries arriving by boat would be received and whisked off in carriages. But dignitaries stopped arriving by boat, and instead arrived by train and later by plane. Now the steps are used by runners for a stairmaster workout and by tourists sunning themselves near the river.

When those steps were built, there were obviously people in the shipping industry who thought shipping would always dominate commerce and transportation. Obviously, they were wrong. And there was probably already enough evidence available in changes being forged by the industrial revolution to suggest an alternative future.

Media is changing rapidly, but I think history shows that former dominant industries rarely die away completely. They just change.

We still have shipping and people still use big boats to get from one place to another, but the business models are different.

Digital media is indeed a threat to mass media, but mass media is not likely to die completely. And print media is likely to carry on in some form, because it retains intrinsic benefits that are hard to replace completely by digital devices (so far).

That isn’t a guarantee or a promise, of course. Those of us in the newspaper industry still need to consider that digital media is a threat and we may not survive (hardly a far-fetched concern), but the correct response to the threat is probably to position it in our own minds, at least, as an opportunity.

How much stronger will our newspaper companies be when we have standing along side successful print products (and not just newspapers) a robust, revenue generating, successful digital business?

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