December 17, 2012

The New Glorious Thirty Years

All industries have gone through fundamental change since the digital revolution led by the Internet and social media. The worlds of finance, publishing, and music have faced difficult times but eventually reinvented themselves. Today, the media have no choice but change or die. It is not an evolution but a revolution that is needed—something quick, radical, and uncertain.

International media’s main source of income, advertising, has seen its numbers divided by three just within a few years. It is below the number reached in 1950 in the United States. Advertising is not the only cause of concern. In Switzerland, some newspapers have lost more than 25 percent of their readership within three years. This has to do with the web-driven horizontality that suppresses intermediaries. All concerned industries reacted by taking one of three paths, which really led them to be stuck in place.


To imitate successful companies is a solution often recommended by self-proclaimed “Social Media Ninja” or another trendy buzzword. To create a Facebook page, a blog, or an iPhone app, to have a QR code, or to hire a community manager is not a digital strategy. The same content is too often repeated endlessly. It thus comes down to imitating successful companies without really understanding the reason for their success. In the best-case scenario, a varnish of 2.0 strategy will impress the leadership, maybe the shareholders. But at the end of the day, it is the same content that is repeated on various media. Users’ attitudes and expectations are not understood; imagination is lacking. Let’s remember that the return on investment of a digital strategy translates into the relationship that is established between a brand and its users.


Legal advisers usually recommend this practice, which feeds the myth that certain laws prevent History to unfold. The most recent example is that of a professional media organization (national union of daily press) that wants to charge search engines every time the engines index the media’s websites. Their reasoning is simple: search engines are profitable, whereas media websites are not; the emergence of the former shows the lack of profitability of the latter. Let’s imagine that an auto mechanic would ask the Yellow Pages to pay him for the right of entering his contact information. This absurd idea highlights how ignorant companies are about new stakes.

It is worth noting that humankind never abandoned a communications mode voluntarily. When writing was invented, it spread and nothing could stop it. Some systems have been replaced by others (secured email replaced facsimile, e.g.) but letters have survived all new written modes of communications.

The thing that the first two solutions share is their decorative nature, but not the deep change they can operate in a given company. These are little “add-ons.” Nothing more. These are minor evolutions, not radical revolutions. However, some companies have managed to look good b finding innovative solutions. Rather than reacting to change, they anticipated the potential brought by such a transformation of habits. They seized the opportunity to come first and to earn market parts that their competitors let go. The New York Times editor-in-chief explained in an interview that he was not the leader of a daily newspaper printed on paper, but of a website that happens to be tied to a daily printed edition. This kind of open and candid approach is the key to today’s success.


You have to dare question everything if you want to change your company or your business. When you think of it, the core of an activity consists on the staff that works, resources, and added value. Based on this fact, it is possible to rethink your business model entirely. In Switzerland, we are lucky to have the creators of one of the most innovative solutions: “Business Model Generation” helps companies reinvent themselves. In order to have a successful transformation, a company must be bold, try things out, and defy established models.

In the media world, Newsweek is an excellent example of deep and recent change. Some will surely think that the end of the printed version is a proof of failure. However, it should be seen as a great opportunity for readers and for the publisher. Newsweek dramatically reduces costs, suppresses logistical problems with production and delivery, and simultaneously skips distributors and intermediaries. This shortened circuit allows information to be delivered directly and less expensively to the consumer, and Newsweek probably makes a larger margin. For a company to go through such radical change means that certain prerequisites must be met and that the staff is buying into it.

Here are some keys to change a company in depth in order to turn it successfully into a major actor in its field:

All staff members must understand what is at stake
From the CEO to the intern, every one has to fully understand what is at stake in the upcoming changes. Various channels can be used: internal communication, workshops, teasers, or informal conversations during coffee breaks.

The new system is implemented bottom-up
Bottom-up communication and interaction systems must be established to give feedback to the leadership and to encourage innovation and collaboration.

Prototypes are tested in a simple manner
A new idea should be implemented and tested quickly. It should first be presented to a small group for validation, improvement or dismissal. If a new service or product takes a year to be presented publicly, they will most likely be obsolete by that time.

Internal flexibility
If change is long and difficult, a company will probably not succeed in modernizing itself. All employees must be ready to change quickly their job description, schedule, habits, or workplace.

Entrepreneurial spirit
Nothing is more valuable than motivation, entrepreneurial spirit, and a mentality open to change. Google’s biggest talent was to expand while maintaining a start-up-like dynamic spirit. Not of one start-up, though. Each team and each department considers itself as a start-up within the company.

Our world is going through a revolution; some things will not change in the next few years. There will always be imitation kings and denial experts. But they will let the train go by and will remain on the sidelines. Change cannot wait. Revolution is on the way. Our generation is enjoying its Thirty Glorious Years. But beware! They will not last 30 years.

This article has been posted by Olivier Kennedy
on December 17, 2012
in #Other
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