The Pending Digital Disruption

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How many times a week do you hear someone say, "it’s a shame what happened to the music industry?" or, "can you believe what the newspaper industry is going through?"

People say that (and we’re not talking about stupid people here, but some very smart individuals) as if the industry they serve (or others) are impenetrable. There is not one industry that is not going to experience these tectonic shifts due to the digitization of our world. Social Media isn’t going to save them. A Blog, being on Twitter or creating a ton of viral videos on YouTube is nothing more than a band-aid – some kind of next level engagement until we discover what the real future of Marketing holds for us all. No one is safe.

It is doomsday (well, not really).

Throughout history we have gone through dramatic shifts like this. Imagine what the industrial revolution looked like to the majority of business owners at the time. What do you think the advent of telecommunications, television and even the computer did to get people to think differently about how business will operate? We’ve been through this before and we’ll be going through this time and time again in the pending decades. It’s just the way that it is.

The way it is vs. the way it has always been.

Those that thrive (not merely survive) are the ones who are able to adapt, tweak and play with their business models. The ones that stick to their guns because, "that’s the way it has always been" are the ones who either become extinct (more on that here: Digital Darwinism) or simply squeak by while making significant revenues (just not as much as they were making when they held some semblance of a monopoly). It’s not going to stop with the newspapers, music and publishing world… it’s going to keep on keeping on.

Here comes everybody.

If you read one thing this week, make it the latest post by Clay Shirky (author of the best-selling business book, Here Comes Everybody) titled, The Collapse of Complex Business Models (published April 1st, 2010). It’s Shirky’s always spot-on and very insightful thoughts about what is happening (and what may happen) to the TV industry. Like your industry, the TV industry is on the brink of even more disruption (some might argue that due to technologies like DVRs, that they’re in the midst of it), and like your industry, the top executives are smart and asking the right questions.

That’s where it starts.

There are enough smart people asking the tough questions, so if your industry has that, plus enough business owners with the patience and realistic perspectives to – at the very least – experiment, explore and tinker with new business models, there may still be hope (in fact, there is hope and a future).

But don’t fool yourself, the pending digital disruption of your industry is coming too (if it’s not already here).


  1. Thanks for sharing this Mitch, but it makes me wonder this question:
    How can we all be best prepared for this impending digital disruption?
    Is it something that we can learn and then develop our own voice and methodology, or is fundamentally different for every industry and it becomes a bit of trial and error. Having just listened to one of your recent podcasts, I’m most concerned about the users of the industry we’re all in and what they do with this interruption. Right? We can plan and plot all we want, but it’s the user that decides. I believe it’s thought leaders like you who are taking the time to shed light on the problem itself, that helps us illustrate the solution.

  2. it was great that music was disrupted first, because we all had a head start on thinking about these issues.
    the industry is now fully disrupted, and as a result it has never been more fun to be involved in.

  3. Heh heh. Good one. Better to think of it in terms of digital epiphany rather than disruption, though most have trouble getting to that.
    Uses of the interactive web span all aspects of your biz, and wiggle into its every corner. It’s so not all about social media.
    And Joe Sorge, I would respond that no, there’s no formula or how-to. It’s an existential thing: like having a baby. Classes in parenting may help somewhat, but they do not by any means prepare you for anything you might encounter. So we all have to bond with the web in our own way.

  4. It’s going to be an interesting ride, I wouldn’t want to miss a minute.
    The most interesting comparison is the commercial printing industry, when the personal printer was first introduced everyone said that was the end of the print industry. In the end, more pages and quantites got printed.
    What will be the catalyst for digital disruption?
    Thanks for the thought provoking writing.
    Stella Poppovich
    Stella’s Pop Factory

  5. “it’s the user that decides”…excellent wording from Joe Sorge above. Thanks again for an amazing discussion and link. Mitch, I wonder if you will direct your thought leadership to what the digital revolution will mean for post-secondary learners, the demise of textbooks and lectures as we know them? The student is the user, the student will decide. I find this exciting, but the future is not clear.

  6. Just like global warming, the ice age, the age of rock and roll, and now digitalis.
    Things and people evolve, reinventing themselves, onto infinity. Each disruption begets the next, and the next. We, as humans, are the most adaptable beings and will adjust.
    Don’t you think the cavemen had issues too?

  7. Music and news/publishing were among the first few. Some of the others that will come soon (early signs are there) are financial industry, healthcare and telecommunications.

  8. I work in TV and I know it’s changing, and so does my boss. But what do I do when my boss, and my boss’s boss, don’t have any real ideas about what to do, or even worse, reject ideas because they aren’t willing to experiment?
    It’s not like I can even say that attitude is unique to my company — because I’ve worked in three cities, spoken to employees and managers and many more stations, and the general sense is of fear, loathing and an inability to cope.
    On second thought, and a second read, maybe the music industry model is the right idea. People still listen to music– but the musicians are much closer to the fans and if done right, get more money.
    We’re already seeing lots of small, successful internet TV startups (The Guild, Dr. Horrible) — it’s just a question of figuring out how to apply this to local news and current affairs.

  9. After the music industry, the newspapers.
    Next is TV industry with their broadcasting as people will watch streaming video’s instead.
    The movie industry is trying to survive with 3D movies making it harder to download them over the Internet – but it has the hurdle of the goggles.
    The power used to be hold by the people who owned the production machines – now everybody can own a production machine at his home.
    Best example: “Paranormal Activity” @ $15,000 – but he needed funding (by Paramount) for the marketing and distribution.
    The biggest cost is no longer the creation and production but the marketing.

  10. Hi all,
    I think it’s more like what Mitch mentioned in Podcast #197…
    “it’s a great time for Marketing”
    Marketing has become “Numero Uno” once again …advertising in the shadows.
    How do U StandOUT in the Real-time Social Web 😉

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