Local Interactive Strategies

‘Not a nanosecond on the iPad’

”All the new companies are not spending a nanosecond on the iPad or thinking of ways to charge for content. The older companies, that is all they are thinking about.” Marc Andreessen, Netscape founder, as quoted by TechCrunch.

Marc Andreessen has some simple advice for newspapers and magazines: “Burn the boats.” Cortes supposedly  ordered his ships burned after arriving in Mexico in the 1500s to prevent his men from even thinking about heading home to Spain.

In this case, Andreessen means ending media’s fixation on the print model by shutting down print.

I happen to believe shutting down print would be insane, businesswise, since most of print media companies’ profits still come from print.

But I agree with his larger point: that smart, successful, innovative companies are looking forward, looking to where consumers are moving, and moving to meet them. Meanwhile, legacy media companies are essentially saying, in Andreessen’s words: “We know where the market is and we are not going to go there.”

How does an existing media company begin operating like an innovative startup? Unfortunately, it doesn’t  happen easily or cheaply. As shown in Clayton Christensen’s  groundbreaking book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” the solution is to let the existing enterprise go its merry way, while spinning off  some of its profit to  create a skunkworks startup that probably will end up competing with the existing business. Yes, that sounds like what some newspaper  and magazine companies did in the 1990s, while they still had profits to spin off.

These days, the skunkworks are gone, replaced by  a laser-like focus on what Christensen would call “sustaining technology” like paywalls and iPads. Those aren’t bad efforts, of course, but they won’t stand a chance against competitors whose vision is only forward.

Given the economic realities of newspapers and magazines, the best we can hope for is some vision at the top, providing cover and resources for a few internal innovators to truly explore new territory and burn their own boats.

March 9, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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