मंगळवार, १६ फेब्रुवारी, २०१०

Publishing 2.0 & Music 2.0 (Part 1)

I was chatting with a dear friend few days ago. I told him my thoughts on how Publishing and Music industry may eventually turn out...he urged me to write about it....so here it goes. Thanks Eric for pushing!

I am watching with much interest the beginning of the demise of the Publishing and Record Industry as we know it...

For survival of this industry, few steps are necessary. First and foremost, the non-content creators and non-artists in the industry, if you are reading this....you should ask couple of questions to yourself and answer them honestly:

1) Are You Racing Straight Toward The Finish Line, Or Running In Circles?

2) Are Some Changes In Order For Your Life? If your bathtub is overflowing, do you first clean up the water or turn off the faucet?

Probably, honest answers to these questions will help you find the right way out. My advise, "Get up immediately, get out and upgrade your skills. Do something else ... Change is the only permanent thing in this world! If you will not take charge of your life at this moment, some idiot in C-suite will do that. And remember, your career prospect and your family is not their problem, at all."

I see, you are probably thinking, this is easy for me to preach from the pulpit ... I request you to keep aside your judgment till you complete reading this passage. If, I am wrong, you can go your merry way confirmed that I am an idiot. Yes, nothing to loose, but, may be something to earn.

Secondly the reason you should read this note is, I have been there and done that...just in a different industry.

Let's roll our clocks back to 1998. I came to States from India in search of work. I started working for the largest privately held Mapmaker in the world. We had it nailed! We had businesses where we had near absolute monopoly (90%+ market share ) Virtually, we were ruling the market. We made printed road maps. Our circulation was only challenged by the Holy Bible alone ... We were selling 66+ million printed pieces of maps a year! My leadership was probably thinking nothing can go wrong and we could do no mistake. Right? Wrong!

We got blindsided!

All of you know, how this one unfolds.

Something called MapQuest happened. As if, that was not enough ... Yahoo, Google and Microsoft decided to duck it out in our space. Well, I can talk for hours about why they may have selected mapping as the field to fight instead of their respective bread and butter competencies ... but, let's keep the debate for another day!

Our sales dropped precipitously across ALL product categories! First ones were the local maps, quickly followed by regional maps and so it went.

We dabbled in digital maps (online, GPS ...) for few years, but, never with the killer instinct that a leader should (and invariable will) demonstrate (except one notable exception in 2001).

Doom spread far and wide in the business like a virus. Our core product lines were facing challenges from left right and center. We started firing cartographers, in hope that computer algorithms can be used to "clean" the data to build maps. Map company firing cartographers is like hospitals firing doctors! Market had lost the appetite for printed maps overnight.

I no longer work in that industry ... as I took my own advice couple of years ago (Yes! I know it took me that loooooong!). But, in my humble opinion printed Map is not really a business any more ... It is probably a niche market ... but days of selling 66+ million maps are certainly behind us.

In next part of this series we will look at some other industries from the past. I have not shed blood, sweat and tears in them, but we all can empathize with our brethren.

It is critically important not to jump to conclusions till we have spent quality time in the history lest we are doomed to repeat it.

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, critique or anything you wish to share...

Thanks Sanjay for reading the first draft!