Sunday, 24 July 2011

What Legacy Media Can Learn from Eastman Kodak

What do you do when your industry is changing? What do you do when your innovations are fueling the changes? Those problems have plagued Eastman Kodak Co. for three decades and the company’s experience provides some lessons for those running legacy media businesses.

Eastman Kodak’s success began when it introduced the first effective camera for non-professionals in the late 19th century and in continual improvements to cameras and black and white and color films throughout the twentieth century. Its products became iconic global brands.

The company’s maintained its position through enviable research and development activities, which in 1975 created the first digital camera. Since that time it has amassed more than 1,100 patents involving electronic sensing, digital imaging, electronic photo processing, and digital printing. These developments, however, continually created innovations damaging to its core film-based business.

Digital photography created a strategic dilemma for the company. It could move into digital photography and destroy the highly profitable film-based business or it could exploit the film-based business while it slowly declined and then--when it was no longer profitable--try to leap out of the business into digital world. It was an ugly choice and the company chose the latter.

Today, the company has just 15% of the employees it once had and its stock prices are about 15% of what they were before it finally stripped out its production capacity and distribution systems. An enduring benefit of its research and development activities is that the company now owns patents on much of the underlying technology used in all digital cameras including those in mobile phones. It is building a new digital revenue stream on licenses and infringement payments for use of those technologies. Those alone now account for 10% of its turnover.

Eastman Kodak’s situation is not unlike that of legacy media firms, especially those in print, whose uses of digital technologies two decades before the arrival Internet and whose experiments with teletext and other telecommunication based information distribution systems foreshadowed the arrival of the Internet.

Today, newspapers and magazines—and increasingly broadcasters—are faced with dilemma of whether to keep exploiting their base legacy product or to dump the old business and jump fully into digital. It is as ugly a choice as that faced by Eastman Kodak in the 1980s and 1990s. So, what lessons can be learned from its experience?

1)      Don’t try to fight change

You may not like its direction and may understand how it will affect your current business, but you will not be able to stop its momentum and trajectory if it is beneficial to many customers. In such conditions you can only protect your existing product by making it as productive and competitive as possible, by adjusting its strategies to better serve those who are most loyal and resist change, and by carefully monitoring the pace of change and the investments you make in the existing product. Simultaneously, existing companies that want to benefit from the change need to be creating new products for the new markets and allow them to develop and mature with the pace of change even though they may be compounding the challenges in the pre-existing product.

2)      Don’t wait too long to change

Waiting to move into new markets with new products gives upstart companies and other competitors opportunities to become players with better products and larger market shares once you decide to enter. Although there are sometimes reasons not to be first movers, you should not wait too long because it is very difficult and expensive to enter and become a major player once a new market moves into its maturation phase.

3)      Be willing to sacrifice some short-term profit for long-term gain and sustainability

Careful strategic consideration must be given profits during transitional periods and managers needs to make the strategy clear to the company and its investors. It may be desirable to boost research and development costs even though there is no guarantee they may produce results; it may be necessary to harm the profits of the existing product by building up its replacement and cannibalizing some of its market; it may be appropriate to make investments in the new product that may not pay off in the short-term. Whatever the strategy, it should be the result of clear and deliberate choices and managers need to ensure that investors and entire company understand the reasons for it.

4)      Own the rights to technologies and services your competitors will employ

Use your R&D efforts and make strategic acquisitions to acquire the technologies and services that competitors will need to employ in the new market so they must turn to you and share the benefits of their growth. Unfortunately, few legacy media companies invested in research and development to early exploit opportunities in digital media by creating the underlying hardware and software for content control and distribution online and in phones, tablets, and computers. Thus, they own few intellectual property rights other than trademarks to their legacy media names and most are not benefiting as Eastman Kodak from patents being used by those eroding the business base. However, the new products still need content products and content management services that legacy media have long produced and companies need to be open to cooperating with the new competitors rather than giving them incentives to go elsewhere or to develop their own content capabilities.

These are turbulent times for legacy media and they require making choices and positioning firms for the future. It is no time for timidity or keeping on with business as usual.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Business July 13th 2011, "More Scott Than Sean" Edition

This week The Business sheds a Sean and gains a Scott. With Kean off doing an honest fifteen minute's work for an honest fifteen minute's pay, The Business welcomes Scott Capurro to it's stage!

San Francisco favorite Scott Capurro has appeared on television, movies and stages worldwide, and occasionally performs encores in the nightmares of audience members long after the show. His act is not for the timid or frankly the stupid, and we are lucky and excited to have him on the show. This quote sums up nicely:

“Yet accept the ferocious, corrosive material in the provocative spirit it’s intended, and it is brilliantly, shockingly funny. So far beyond the pale that the only reaction IS to laugh, partly out of discomfort, partly out of the sheer audacity of it all.” - Chortle

Bucky, Chris and Alex will also be around, but don't expect any hand holding. Your a big audience and you can take it.

Remember: don't let the grey days of Summer get you down. Let the burritos of The Mission warm your belly like sunshine and the comedy at The Business warm your brain like...more sunshine.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

News of the World Closure Shows the Business Cost of a Bad Reputation

The decision to close the News of the World in the UK because of the fallout from the phone hacking scandal shows the importance of ethical behavior and public credibility for media firms.

The paper had been hacking the private communications of celebrities, politicians, crime victims, and even relatives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and then spent four years trying to cover it up by paying hush money and—according to some reports—bribing police officers to ignore its crimes.

The paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., was Britain’s largest selling Sunday newspaper until it spectacularly unraveled in recent weeks. Continuing revelations of illicit activities and the announcement of Parliamentary and police investigations led advertisers including Ford, Sainsbury, Lloyds Banking Group, Virgin Media, Dixons, and Vauxhall to pull their advertising.

Perhaps it was embarrassment—but it was more likely the loss of revenue, the loss of almost $3 billion in market value for the parent company because of declining share prices, the hundreds of millions of pounds in damages that will have to be paid, and the fact that the paper’s meltdown was endangering Murdoch’s takeover of BskyB—that led him to kill the paper.

Unfortunately, the scandal shows that some journalists and news organizations will go to any length to get a story, no matter how disgraceful and unethical it may be. Fortunately, the number of journalists who will go as far as those at the News of the World are limited, but the outrageous conduct highlights the growing chasm between those who believe everything should be public and that journalists have a right to do anything to get information and those who believe in a right to privacy and a right to be left alone.

The culture at the News of the World that led to the behavior shows that pressures on organizations to put their interests above those of the public needs to be resisted. It is hardly a culture reputable news organizations and companies should emulate. Not only the reputational costs—but the economic costs as well—are far to high.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Business July 6th 2011, "Back To Basics" Edition




This Wednesday The Business returns to it's roots with a lineup of the four original Businessmen: clean, simple and bold. It's our four faces on the logo damnit, and you should come to The Dark Room and see why we deserve to be on there.

The Business has had many great guests, but sometimes, it's best to go back to the core four. After all, would the Beatles have hit it big with Stu Sutcliffe playing bass? Would there have been a "Fast Five" if producers hadn't brought back Paul Walker for the 4th movie? Would we have won independence had we signed the Declaration of Independence on July 5th? Hell no! Tonight at 8, 4 is the magic number.

As always, burritos are encouraged.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Business LA Edition: Meltdown With You! - July 15th 2011,


BIG UPDATE:
Special Guests joining The Business this Friday are:
Kumail Nanjiani
Knuckles & Tits
and
Tony Sam!

Just Added: Ryan Singer!


Summer is here, America is born (again) and The Business returns to LA, but this month we’ve got some brand new digs, you dig? Last month we said goodbye to The Improv Lab (and mucho thanks!). This month we say hello to the new home of The Business: Meltdown Comics! This unique venue is already home to some of the best comedy shows currently in Los Angeles, and we’re proud to be partnering with @NerdMelt to bring the Business to the roster. We wanna kick off our first show with a bang, so stop the world and melt with Chris, Bucky, Alex (Sean is MIA, FYI) and some very special guests nerds!

As always we will be raffling off a new, medically-transported Mission Burrito for all you hungry Biz fans. God Bless Nerdmerica!

TICKETS:
http://www.meltcomics.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=89&zenid=789b08ced91c15ca695ecc92d1e6b86f

http://www.meltcomics.com/blog/


MySpace Sale Underscores the Risks of Exuberant Digital Investments

The decision by News Corp. to dump MySpace once again reveals the risks of over exuberance toward digital companies that do not have a proven business model or long-term customer loyalty.

There are plenty of digital investments that meet those requirements, but a number of the most hyped firms moving toward IPOs and acquisitions do not. They need to be considered with hard headed pragmatism.

MySpace was launched 2003 and rapidly became the toast of the digital world as a social networking site and “the place” for musical stars and fans to connect. By 2005 it was the fifth most visited site on the Internet.

New Corp., which was anxious to benefit from growth in digital media, jumped at the opportunity to acquire the service and paid $580 million in 2005. It was an enormous price for a company with an unclear revenue potential.

Within two years MySpace had grown to be the world’s number one social networking site and was receiving 100 million unique monthly visitors. But it still had revenue problems; its visitors weren't paying customers and advertising wasn't paying its costs.

Despite landing a $900 million ad deal with Google, MySpace reported just one period of profitability. On top of that, it lost its cache with users and its leading position was soon eclipsed by Facebook.

Overall, it is estimated that the MySpace lost at least $1.5 billion under News Corp. and those losses dragged down the News Corp.’s overall earnings. The extent of its losses has never been completely clear because its results were not transparently presented in News Corp. financial reports.

After desperately trying to revive MySpace, News Corp. put it up for sale with an asking price was $100 million. It was sold in June to the online advertising network Specific Media for $35 million (about 6% of what News Corp paid for it), but the company was really just giving it away to get it off its books. As part of the deal, News Corp. took a minority equity stake in Specific Media.

Investing in emerging industries is always more risky than investing in established ones, so it requires a good deal of realism and clear headedness about the opportunities and their potential. It is not good enough merely to throw money on the table in hopes of drawing a winning hand or because the crowd is encouraging you on. A solid business plan that it is already working and producing financial growth and a user model based on more than popularity and status are required unless you investing high-risk capital you can afford to lose, as well as other opportunities it might have funded.