If an institution like the New York Times is slowly going out of business do you have a chance saving your company from the same fate?
I watched Page One: Inside the New York Times last night, two thumbs up, I’d highly recommend this movie. What struck me was the folks at the Times are exceptionally smart people but, still they have not figured out how to position the company or brand in a way that it can continue to flourish. I should clarify, I don’t know if the Times will go out of business however they have been slowly and consistently constricting in recent years with the sale of their building and more recently the pending sale of another asset About.com.
So if having smart, no brilliant, management and staff doesn’t save a company from eventual extinction what will? Is it just the nature order of things?
I don’t think so. Take a look at how Apple and HP reinvented themselves. Then why do some companies slowly fade?
My guess is it’s about risk. If I was on the inside at the Times I suspect that continuing the paper version while having a foot in new media makes all the sense in the world. The old model is shrinking, sure but, it’s still throwing off a tidy profit. It’s risky to completely abandon the old model and jump right into a new one. In fact, it’s almost too painful to contemplate, think of the liquidation of assets, the firing of people, and the sheer unknown. But, what if they stopped the paper version before it stopped itself and built themselves from the ground up completely embracing a new model? Could they save the brand? Could they still provide a valuable service? Could they still serve their customers? Could they save some jobs? Maybe.
All this is so, so tough. But, I believe there’s a spiral of death when you cling, even in part, to the old model. Businesses slowly loose their ability to save themselves, morale tanks and then so does productivity. Perhaps it’s better to dive right in to a whole new model than take the seeming less risky route saving some short-term profitability by holding on to an old and declining business.