January 22, 2003

Scratch a Competitor, Find an Innovator

In the latest edition of The Cole Papers, David Cole's monthly newsletter devoted to newspaper publishing, technology and journalism (sub. required), Howard Finberg bemoans the convergence of newspaper industry technology venders, saying, "If competition invites innovation, every time you remove a competitor you remove an innovator."

Finberg, a former print-to-online pioneer and now a consultant, blames tight-fisted publishers for discouraging innovation.

"Something has to get old and moldy before they'll replace it," said Finberg. He says that publishing executives shouldn't "look at the depreciation tables" and wait "to avoid technology investments until it's absolutely essential - for example, the systems are falling apart."

Finberg cites the lack of research and development in the newspaper business as a metric that symbolizes the industry's aversion to change - an institutional distaste that infects editorial and business operations alike.

In his 1997 book "The Innovator's Dilemma," Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen argues that established companies, blinded by their own success and addicted to the processes and products that made them successful, inevitably are supplanted by upstart competitors whose products are newer, more advanced and, eventually, because of their technological edge, more cost effective. (See my post below about RSS, news feeds and blogs).

The book was much in favor during the Great Internet Boom. NAA and ASNE should give every member a copy.

Posted by Tim Porter at January 22, 2003 04:28 PM