Change is constant. It’s always a factor for businesses and one of the more difficult forces to deal with.
Take the newspaper industry, for example. It wasn’t too long ago that major metropolitan newspapers were the central, almost monopolistic source for news. Today, newspapers have had difficulty adapting their business model to the myriad sources of news available since the advent of the Internet, which opened the publishing game to anyone with a computer and a connection.
In fact, The New York Times, one of the largest newspapers in the U.S., recently announced cutbacks in its staff that will affect 100 newsroom jobs and some editorial and business operations positions. And this is only a recent example of a trend that is happening in newsrooms large and small throughout the country.
The disruption caused by media entities born in the age of the Internet is still rippling through the industry. As it stands, the top three most popular news websites based on Web traffic are all newer players — Yahoo! News, Google News and The Huffington Post. The traffic on these sites more than doubles that of the Times, a revered paper that has earned its reputation during the course of its 163-year existence.
Our cover story this month tells a similar story, but with a rosier outlook than the troubled newspaper industry.
Independent Stationers Inc. is an independent office products dealer that has watched its industry get invaded by national retail giants that disrupted its market. In fact, company President and CEO Michael Gentile acknowledges the once-dreary forecast for independent dealers, saying that 10 years ago experts were predicting the extinction of the independent dealer. But, according to Gentile, big-box stores, which didn’t value and respect the power of local, have grossly underestimated the entrepreneurial nature and resiliency of the independent dealer.
Today, Gentile says it’s local, independent business people who have been growing and adding jobs.
“Big boxes are all struggling for relevancy,” he says. “They can’t close retail stores fast enough to stop the bleeding and it has added pressure to us because we need to adapt and accelerate our own technology so we can meet the demands that are being placed on us.”
Back in the newspaper industry, giants like the Times are looking to the upstarts as they try to get a grasp on how to compete in the digital world. Not too long ago, The New York Times Innovation Report was leaked across the Web. It signaled a drastic cultural and strategic change to the way the paper had traditionally done business, modeling its future to the strategies that had forced it to create the report in the first place.
The plight of the Times and IS magnifies what every business faces. Though the scale may be grander, the consequences of failure are the same. Adapt or die.