Monday, August 12, 2013

Newspapers: There was no Surprise

In 1980 and through 1983 I had responsibility as President of the Warner Electronic Home Services Group to develop what was then called Videotext. This was the immediate predecessor of the Internet. We used two way CATV systems and also integrated telco networks with cable and provided video on demand.

The newspapers in those days saw this as a threat. We met with the Washington Post, the NY Times, the Boston Globe, Gannett and others. Each had their "teams" preparing for the new electronic world, as did banks, retail stores and others. Below is the strategy slide for Gannett.
Thus in discussions at that time there was a clear understanding of how the new electronic distribution channel would disrupt their business and moreover what could be doe to thwart it. Specifically we stated to them the following:
Namely there were strategies they could follow which would protect them in the long term. The opportunities were:
Did any of them do anything? Some did but they did so to align themselves with the old way of doing things. They all too often just missed the point. I recall a meeting with the Boston Globe team, old newspaper types, who just did not see what was happening. The recent sale of the Globe and Post are just first steps of a new generation trying to adapt. The problem may be more systemic and not solvable. After all we told them thirty years ago and they did not listen then.