The ongoing and seemingly inexorable decline of traditional media continues to be the canonical example of what happens when the ground rules get changed in an industry that is fundamentally unable to adapt to new market conditions. A great analysis recently posted by Umair Haque at Harvard Business underscores the point: The so-called new normal is starting to seem more and more foreign the deeper we go into the 21st century than most organizations may yet be willing to believe.
The old question about the innovator’s dilemma has become more urgent as the new business landscape looks increasingly unfamiliar: We now live in an age where things that were historically scarce are now available abundantly — at least on the network — in seemingly unlimited quantities (new ideas, existing knowledge, and productive capacity, never mind that all your customers and competitors are there too), and what was formerly abundant is now scarce (broad demand for big ticket, high margin, low volume products and services in the form of large advertisers, big corporate customers, or anything else.)
Denial is also not just a river in Egypt in this discussion. The reality is that businesses are often very uncomfortable about talking about their future in such an uncertain and rapidly changing landscape. There’s even been serious discussions recently about “putting the genie back into the bottle.” This includes otherwise shrewd business leaders such as Rupert Murdoch suggesting they seriously explore charging for online news in an attempt to roll the clock back on their industry and put pay walls back in place.
Moves like these are desperate measures from shrinking, even dying, industries that are breathtakingly misguided while also being insufficiently imaginative in their response, to put it somewhat mildly. These periodic debates also show us the future of our own corner of the business world and the need for effective vision.
But it’s the monumental misunderstanding of how the network actually functions and creates value that is the more serious error here. This is not to say, however, that the new business models of the Web are completely understood either, or that there’s a straight line of travel that we can take to adopt them. We still have much to learn about how the global economic cornucopia that is the Internet really works and yet the broad outlines are indeed steadily emerging. More specifically, organizations on the front line of this transformation of the business landscape right now actually do have some options today as we’ll see…