Tripping the future

In an Economist interview, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg says “the leading news organisations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.” Cynical and true, I’m afraid.

Once smaller, more efficient, more collaborative, more quickly profitable online-only operations start working – and they must, or we’re all doomed – then it will force the big, old guys to utterly transform and radically shrink their businesses or die. Or it will inspire lots of new competitors to spring up and kill them. These days, I’m betting on the latter.

All the incumbents are fighting is inevitability. The losses at big, old print operations are simply unsustainable. As I said the other day, startups can come in and craigslist (as a verb) not only their advertising but also their content and distribution businesses. The legacy players have proven to be unwilling to disrupt themselves; that’s what Jacob is saying. So how do we get to that radically restructured future? Not through incrementalism but through transformation or death.