Are you fearless enough to raze the old to raise the new?
In 1999, a remarkable device hit the world by a little known company in Waterloo, Canada — Research in Motion (RIM). The BlackBerry revolutionized the mobile handset industry with its signature design, keyboard and secure communications application.
It was ahead of its time and started an addiction to handhelds that grew into the obsession we see today. In May 2007, the BlackBerry was ranked 5th in PC World’s Top 100 Products (Apple TV was No. 11, the Samsung BlackJack smartphone No. 25, and the iPod No. 26).
Fueled by a feeding frenzy of BlackBerry fanatics, of which included me and http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/us/politics/23berry.html?mcubz=1 President Obama, RIM held all the cards, which gave it the power to hold telecom operators hostage with outrageous licensing fees (90% of which were pure profit for RIM).
Five years later the BlackBerry was relegated to the “Whatever happened to…” category of antiquated tech. And while RIM tried to refresh itself with its new name, BlackBerry, it was never able to return to the days when it ruled the mobile world. Last September, the company, a pale shadow of its former self, stopped making smartphones altogether.
What caused the Wizard of Waterloo to enter a freefall in a market it once owned and was growing by leaps and bounds?
Some claim that its success bred conservatism and complacency, and perhaps that is true. But in The Globe and Mail’s, 2013 investigative https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/the-inside-story-of-why-blackberry-is-failing/article14563602/?page=all report, a number of other crippling factors were exposed by insiders. BlackBerry…
• Believed they knew better than their users what they wanted and thought they could dictate what the market needed
• Let fear of Apple and Google drive bad decisions — becoming copycats with inferior, late-to-market products few wanted to buy
• Had no cohesive strategic vision within their leadership team
• Was a company in turmoil, fueled by the fear of cannibalization
• Failed to innovate and capitalize on market shifts and rapid changes in technology and user behavior When I think about BlackBerry’s rollercoaster ride from riches to rags, I can’t help but think about the state of mainstream media. The similarities in their histories are hard to ignore.
Mainstream publishers were caught in http://www.claytonchristensen.com/books/the-innovators-dilemma/ The http://www.claytonchristensen.com/books/the-innovators-dilemma/ Innovator’s Dilemma. Although they saw all the signs, they didn’t see enough value in the technology to invest in any serious way, allowing digital innovators to race right by them in plain sight while they were looking in the rearview mirror. Too many publishers never learned that if you don’t destroy the old to build the new in the face of disruption, you risk repeating the fates of others like BlackBerry and Kodak.
Just like BlackBerry, legacy publishers…
• Have held their readers in disdain for years; too often https://www.pressreader.com/@The_Insider/csb_B53ffsPpfsKJM6UdDdvMpwD_xAdzhta_mPQDNBscqReG8wX40fY_yoeP2PCl0QZuC3PN0fmjEN08kp1LYmhT_g" referring to them as idiots
• Are paralyzed by their fear of cannibalizing their print products
• Live in constant anxiety over Facebook and Google
• Fail to innovate and capitalize on the changes in technology and social behavior
Many legacy publishers are now at risk of losing it all by trying to, not only stop time, but reverse it. They opened the digital advertising door to startups they ignored for years and now yell, “Foul!” — accusing visionary innovators of stealing their content and their revenue.
How did this happen?
If I may be so bold, I would suggest that it was because some publishers, like BlackBerry, let their success in 2000 breed conservatism and complacency.
Even when the print revenues started to tumble and paid circulation plummet, they held on to the belief that somehow they could reverse the trend. Just like BlackBerry, they believed they were too big to fail.
I know this sounds like a death march, but it’s not too late to turn the tables. Take a lesson from RIM about what not to do and then be inspired by Apple’s culture of fearlessness.
By launching the iPhone, Apple killed its iPod — a product that accounted for over https://www.statista.com/statistics/253630/ipod-revenue-as-share-of-apples-total-revenue/ 28% of Apple’s https://www.statista.com/statistics/253630/ipod-revenue-as-share-of-apples-total-revenue/ revenue in 2009 — over US$11.9 billion! To say its demise was planned intentionally might be stretching it a bit, but there is little doubt that https://www.cnet.com/news/iphone-at-10-apple-steve-jobs-make-iphone-history-remembering/ Steve https://www.cnet.com/news/iphone-at-10-apple-steve-jobs-make-iphone-history-remembering/ Jobs knew that would happen. Sure, he milked the iPod for a few years, but he knew it had a limited shelf life and would be replaced with something that would become even more desirable, powerful, and profitable as technology advanced.
Apple reinvented the phone, MP3 player, camera, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and computer in one fell swoop by putting all the functionality into a single mobile device. But not just any device—the most beautiful device the world had ever seen. And it didn’t stop there. Apple opened up the iPhone to application developers everywhere — not just the big guns, but everyone who could code. Today the iPhone has over 2.2 million apps which generated over US$28 billion in revenue by 2016.
Could mainstream media have had that same entrepreneurial spirit, strategic vision and willingness to experiment when it was introduced to the power of the internet twenty years ago? Yes, absolutely it could have.
But instead of recognizing the potential of the technology, publishers merely viewed the internet as “just another channel” on which to distribute their content. They never saw it as an opportunity to reinvent the world like Apple, Google, and Facebook did.
Now I know what you’re going to say, “These are all highly successful technology companies.” True, but don’t forget that in 1997 when the newspaper industry in the US was about to reach its peak revenue of US$67 billion, Apple was on the http://www.businessinsider.com/how-steve-jobs-took-apple-from-near-bankruptcy-to-billions-in-13-years-2011-1 verge of bankruptcy and Google and Facebook didn’t even exist.
So what did Apple do right? It hired back Steve Jobs — a renowned visionary who immediately stepped in and got rid of the baggage, which included an unhealthy culture.
“If we want to move forward and see Apple healthy and prospering again, we have to let go of a few things here. We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We’re shepherding some of the greatest assets in the computer industry. We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. And if others are going to help us, that’s great, because we need all the help we can get. And if we screw up and we don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody else’s fault. It’s our fault.”
Now take this quote and substitute the bolded items above to reflect your company… “If we want to move forward and see us healthy and prospering again, we have to let go of a few things here. We have to let go of this notion that for us to win, other publishers, new media and consumers have to lose. We’re shepherding some of the greatest assets in the media industry. We have to embrace a notion that for us to win, we have to do a really good job. And if others are going to help us, that’s great, because we need all the help we can get. And if we screw up and we don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody else’s fault. It’s our fault.”
It’s not too late to embrace a new culture and vision, but it may require difficult decisions as Ken Lerer, co-founder of Huffington Post and a successful new media investor learned the hard way…
“I made a bunch of mistakes when we launched NowThis News. I hired traditional media executives. Bad mistake. It’s really hard for people to learn something new when they’re not 15. So we finally got it right. We hired the right people, who were all in their twenties, who didn’t grow up at ABC or NBC or CBS or CNN or any of those places. So, it’s doing terrifically well now.”
Every day is a new day. So tomorrow wake up and imagine what you could do if you weren’t burdened by the shackles of the past and present. To inspire you, check out the https://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2017 most innovative and https://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2017 successful organizations in the world and remember how they got, and now thrive, there.
And then ask yourself with a new fearless outlook on your future, “What must I raze today in order to raise a new media company that will propel us into a profitable future?”