business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Nobody - and no business - is indispensable.

That’s conventional wisdom, right? And it is rare that you find situations that challenge it. A couple of possibilities come to mind. For example, we’ll soon find out whether Steve Jobs is the indispensable man. And I’ve had people tell me that they think Feargal Quinn, the founder of Ireland’s iconic Superquinn, is the indispensable man, which accounts for all of its troubles since he moved on to other challenges.

But for the most part, this conventional wisdom seems pretty on-target.

It is something we all have to keep in mind in our work lives. All by itself, it has to be motivation to keep innovating, to keep challenging ourselves and others, to keep looking for the flaws in our business models and trying to find ways to put ourselves out of business so that other people and companies don’t do it.

It is true in all industries.

I was reading a story in the New York Times the other day about a new Pew Research Center study saying that “while television is the main source for three popular topics — weather, traffic and breaking news — newspapers and their Web sites are the main source for 11 other topics, like local government updates, zoning news and crime reports. It also found that word of mouth, most likely including text messages and Twitter posts, is the second most common means of news distribution on the local level.”

Think about it. When it comes to local news, newspapers and their websites are first ... and text messaging is second. When did that happen?

This speaks to the power of what you probably could call non-institutional communications tools. It also speaks to the increasing disenchantment that people feel toward journalism ... though that’s been the case as long as I can remember. But people in all sorts of businesses need to keep these trends in mind, because even if they are trusted by their customers, they have to keep in mind the fact that in a non-institutional age, missteps can have an enormous impact.

The other ongoing story that speaks to the whole notion of not being indispensable is the Netflix controversy, which we’ve spent a lot of time talking about here on MNB. I don;t want to beat a dead horse, but Netflix’s decision to raise prices and split its business in two - separating the DVD rental biz from the online streaming portion - has left the door open for other companies to figure out how to best compete with what has, to this point, been an online juggernaut. Dish Network is out with a new online streaming service for its Blockbuster brand, and Amazon just sent out an email this week to customers announcing increased streaming availability. Expect to see a lot more of this, and for Netflix to figure out some new tactic or strategy that will allow it to retain - or regain - its edge.

The other day, I said something here about Netflix having opened the window to allow competitors in. But I was wrong about that. The simple truth is that the window always is open. We all have to work using the premise that competitors always are going to try to get in. Because nobody is indispensable, and nobody has an unassailable business model.

That’s what is on my mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
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