Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The Way Forward

Posted on | December 15, 2008 | No Comments

One of the things that B:B publishers need to come to grips with is their infrastructure. As the economy unwinds around them, now is the perfect time to address it.
I began thinking about this this morning when I read a couple of pieces in The Wall Street Journal. In the first piece, Cari Tuna (names don’t get much better than that) writes about firms that cut costs without resorting to layoffs. What a novel concept.
In the second, our old friend at Harvard Business School, Clayton Christensen,talks about the cleansing aspects of the recession.

His bottom line:

“It will force innovators to not waste nearly so much money.”

In B:B publishing, I translate this to mean publishers will stop rolling their own Web services and products and leverage what’s freely available.
B:B has been a fairly unimaginative bunch in this regard. It’s easy to lay off people. It’s a big number fully burdened, and you can always rationalize it. But when you get down to the last two or three people in an organization, more layoffs end the product’s existence.
What publishers should have thought about years ago was getting lean, mean and nimble by leveraging all the Web 2.0 technologies that emerged in this past decade. Rolling your own is expensive and slow, and at the end of the day, most of these new products fail, so your ROI stinks. Christensen said as much talking about innovation in general:

“One of the banes of successful innovation is that companies may be so committed to innovation that they will give the innovators a lot of money to spend. And, statistically, 93% of all innovations that ultimately become successful started off in the wrong direction; the probability that you’ll get it right the first time out of the gate is very low.”

It’s broken; fix it
I’ve said this for years, as has David Strom. The internal IT infrastructure for Web products is broken and it’s gotta be reconsidered. Plenty of services (see Google) exist for anyone to build a business, especially in publishing.
Publishers need to come to grips with where people matter most in the new-new economy. By laying off sales people and editors, B:B publishers are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
Similarly, companies pursuing vendor-as-publisher strategies will choke on ROI if they run out and hire expensive Web developers to build blogs and community sites for them.
The recession will underscore that there are two types of companies (and two types of executives leading them): The quick and the dead.

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