Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lessons for publishers from the Kodak story

It's easy to draw some analogies for publishers from Kodak's recent story.

Days before the company filed for bankruptcy protection, the Economist did a great job of analysing why while Kodak is at deaths door, Fujifilm is thriving. Here's how they differ:
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. 
Here's a few of the points the Economist highlights:

  • Kodak had become 'a complacent monopolist'
  • It was slow to diversify, Fujifilm wasn't
  • Its culture was one of perfectionism instead of 'make it, launch it, fix it'
  • There were management and leadership failings 

Taking up a similar theme, Kim Gittleson's BBC article asks Can a company live forever?. It says that over the last century the average lifespan for a leading US company listed on the Standard & Poor 500 index has decreased by more than 50 years:
It's fallen from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today, according to Professor Richard Foster from Yale University.
Today's rate of change "is at a faster pace than ever", he says. Professor Foster estimates that by 2020, more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we have not heard of yet.
No company is entitled to a market just because it's been around for a long time.  It has to innovate, find new markets, change its culture and re-invent itself.  For publishers who haven't already learnt this lesson it may be too late.