Survive or Thrive: lessons from a dying industry


I was recently asked, “What is the future of print media and is there anything that newspapers and magazines can do to survive in the future?” This question brought a couple of things to mind. If we imagine the future of any industry, organization, business, or community, we often think of its future in today’s context. This is the first mistake that we make. We try to take the strategic steps and actions to preserve the current state, current value, and current relevance of the organization or industry without considering how and if the current model fits the changing environment.

Instead organizations need to reinvent themselves, which should begin by questioning their intent for survival in their current state. So if we’re talking about the future of the newspaper industry, the first question we must ask is: “What value does printed media have in today’s information heavy environment?” Now of course there are the nostalgic reasons for having printed media, but the real question is: “How many people are buying, purchasing, or utilizing printed media?”

While the newspaper industry provides a great example of how organizations must evolve and adapt to shifting dynamics in the external environment, every organization must similarly consider its current and future relevance in order to survive. This process should involve the following three considerations:

  1. What components make up the organization in its existing framework? By components I’m referring to many of the intangible things such as talent, experiential knowledge, industry expertise, and so on.
  2. Are these components still relevant in today’s social and environmental framework?
  3. The third and often most neglected consideration involves asking: “What is the exceptional value that our organization is providing for the community at large if we do not change who we are? Has our goal to survive as an organization/industry replaced our goal to provide a necessary and valuable service/product?

So rather than trying to maintain the status quo, organizations (particularly those on the verge of extinction, such as newspapers and print media) must reinvent who they are immediately or they will go out of business as several have gone before them. Begin this process by taking an organizational inventory of all the components, resources, and value provided for your stakeholders, clients, or community. Create two columns titled, “Today’s Relevance,” and, “Future Relevance.” Step back and look at the two columns and ask yourself, “What exceptional value are we providing for our readership, clients, stakeholders, and the public?” This process should at least give you a great starting point to question your motivation for strategic planning, new initiatives, or new business investments. Where are you spending your time energy and talent? Is it on survivability? Or, are you putting your efforts into thrive-ability?

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