The other day, my wife reported that the Border’s bookstore in a neighboring community has closed. The same day I saw that Barnes & Noble was put up for sale because the company had becoming very unattractive to investors.
The Blockbuster Video store in my neighborhood, while still in business, looks shabbier and shabbier and I expect it to close in the near future. Meanwhile, newspaper get thinner and thinner as circulations continues to fall. The Tribune Company, owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Newsday, among other media has been in bankruptcy and shows few signs of emerging from Chapter 11 protection.
Time and Newsweek are mere skeletons of what they used to be and Newsweek has been sold by the Washington Post.
Are you ready for the new paradigms? Do you have a Kindle or iPad for reading books? Do you read your daily newspaper on-line? What kind of home entertainment system do you have connected to your High Definition TV that will allow you to see movies, previously available only at the video store or from a vending machine?
We recently changed from a dish TV system to AT&T’s (formerly known as SBC) U-verse system that will allow me to combine local phone, long-distance, high speed Internet and a totally complete TV package that includes everything – premium movie and sports packages – for a fraction of the cost I used to pay for the unbundled services.
While I am not complaining or bemoaning the changes nor am I hoping for a return to the “good old days,” as a professional marketer I am noticing incredible challenges. Take a revolutionary and highly successful system like Netflix and understand this concept is a few years away from the junk heap as technology will make it obsolete. Barnes & Noble, Borders and Blockbuster also are heading for the junk heap. Interestingly, the management of Barnes & Noble chose to throw in the towel and sell the company rather than partner will an Amazon, Microsoft, Apple or some other deep-pocketed technology company in the video books business. Whatever happened to creativity? Barnes and Noble, despite being the nation’s – perhaps the world’s – largest bricks and mortar bookstore has chosen to throw in the towel and not compete.
What must a successful company do to survive and thrive in this environment?. For one thing, a company must never take its initial or early success for granted. No sooner is a new product put on the market, competitors are already breaking it down and finding ways to make it obsolete. Look what happened to Palm? A few years ago, the Palm Pilot was the rage. Everybody had to have one and they paid dearly for it. What a wonderful device, you could have all your addresses, phone numbers and date book in the palm of your hand. I have three Palm Pilots in my desk draws and I don’t need or use any of the them because I have a Blackberry that does everything the Palm Pilot did and also functions as a phone, link the Internet, music storage device and a camera. And, this magnificent Blackberry is considered inferior to the iPhone or the Droid and heaven knows what other new device will be introduced any day.
As for computers, we have the standard desktops, the notebooks, the laptops and the netbooks. Every new version has more bells and whistles and actually costs less. Pity the poor technology company trying to ride the crest of the wave.
There is only one answer and it’s terribly costly. To be a successful technology company today, the firm must spend enormous resources to make its own products obsolete. Even before that product is introduced, the company should be working on the next generation. That’s the arena in which one must compete today, but one thing has never and will never change – it will always be the survival of the fittest!