It was déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say, when I saw that Clayton Christensen was offering the news business advice on dealing with disruptive innovation.
I look back with a mix of pride, gratitude and anger on my experience with Christensen’s partnership with the American Press Institute in the Newspaper Next project. We offered the newspaper business a strategy and process for changing our business model to adapt to the digital earthquake that was destroying our foundations.
If someone had embraced and fully pursued that approach, instead of merely dabbling with it, I think that company would be dramatically better off today than the rest of the news business (it would be so different that we certainly wouldn’t call it a newspaper company, even if it still produced newspapers). I could be wrong, but I’d like that company’s chances. And it could hardly be worse off than its peers are.
And, of course, we’re such a copycat industry that other companies would have followed that company and they would be better off as well. Instead, the newspaper industry copied each other in acting timidly and protectively.
We published the first N2 report in September 2006. That year newspaper ad revenues would decline by 1.7 percent from 2005′s peak level of $47 billion
million. In my lifetime, newspapers’ print ad revenues had fallen in only seven years, according to Newspaper Association of America data. Only two of those declines were more than 3 percent, none larger than 9 percent. On the other hand, 10 times during my life, we saw double-digit growth in ad revenues.
The newspaper business was used to the gravy train and it wasn’t ready to change. (more…)
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