Creative Destruction


The dismal scientist….

In 1942 economist Joseph Schumpeter published the theory of Creative Destruction in his book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.

Schumpeter’s thesis was fairly simple: new technologies create new business opportunities and new industries, but by their very existence destroy the infrastructure that existed previously. For those caught up in it, it can be a painful experience.

In journalism, we have had waves of creative destruction.

The advent of ‘Cold Type” or electronic typesetting in the 1970s obviated the entire career of linotype operators. It was hard for them to understand. In the UK, Wapping became synonymous with Murdoch’s efforts to break the backs of the unions. What he was really doing was replacing an archaic printing technology with a new way of printing newspapers – but one that wiped out hundreds, if not thousands of union jobs. At Wapping it was blood on the floor.

Murdoch was no stranger to the newspaper business. He had grown up in it. But to the union pressmen from The Times and The Sun, he was just an Australian businessman who was messing with their lives. They underestimated him. Badlly.

Murdoch built a whole new operation at Wapping. It was streamlined newspaper printing…. all electronic.

The union was resistant. It meant the end of jobs for some and for those who survived, a very different way of working.

They met with Murdoch at Wapping.

Murdoch had suggested that The Times, a morning broadsheet and The Sun an afternoon tabloid could be printed on the same presses.

The union men disagreed.

“Mr. Murdoch”, they tried to explain to their new boss, “the Times is a broadsheet. The Sun is a tabloid. The paper is different sized. It requires two different kinds of presses,” they said. And thus two full crews.

“Bullshit” Murdoch replied. He knew the technology.

He took off his suit jacket, climbed into the press and reset the webbing himself.

“Run it you bastards” he said.

It was over.

Murdoch had won.

New technologies are irresistable. The key is understanding them.

The small cameras, laptop edits and online video capability are a classic case of creative destruction. Jobs will change. Some will lose them. New jobs will be created. Those who don’t understand this will find it an extremely unpleasant experience…. even those who do. But there is nothing you can do to stop it.

It makes a lot of people unhappy.

Just take a look at

It is no fun to be caught in the middle of a Creative Destruction moment. Whole industries, and indeed whole worlds collapse. That’s the ‘destruction’ side. But let’s focus on the Creative side. Whole new businesses and whole new ways of working are equally born out of the ashes. For those who can see what is coming and prepare for it, the possiblities are enormous, as the field is still fairly empty.

It is not for nothing that economics is called ‘the dismal science’.

But look as Schumpeter. He did not look like a very happy guy. For those who ‘get it’, the creative part of his equation carries myiad possibilities.


9 responses to “Creative Destruction

  1. Pingback: Waitin’ On a Moment - by Tim Gruber » The opportunities are limitless.

  2. I think this blog post expresses the realities of those who are unwilling to make the adaptation to the new paradigm of video journalism.

    As one of your threads saw, it spiraled out of control and had to be edited due to the flame fest that was, IMO, uncalled for.

    My experience has been that rational thought becomes like the euphemism of “Throwing the baby out with the bath water”. A scarcity mentality throws all rational reason out the window when one feels threatened.

    There is nothing preventing the current crop of ENG shooters/reporters from making the shift in thinking and operation. The challenge is, their ego’s prevent this from occurring. Change is never easy – but it is necessary in order to survive in an increasingly competitive market place.

    I and many others “Get It” in contrast to those too entrenched in rigid thinking and opinion of what is proper video journalism supposedly is.

    The first line of M. Scott Peck’s book “The Road Less Traveled” taught me something very important a few years back that has helped me greatly in my transition and the uncomfortability I have experienced along the way: “Life is difficult. This is a universal truth. Once one accepts that life is difficult it no longer becomes difficult. It becomes life” (Paraphrased by yours truly).

    There are those who are stuck in the mud, so to speak, who could learn this life lesson and apply it to their resistance to change – for resistance is an unwillingness to accept what is – one can fight it all you want – but in the end, you will lose the fight and then your energy expended will have been for nothing.

    I internally repeat this statement again and again as my mantra every morning as I walk down this Road Less Traveled of Video Journalism: “Adapt or Perish”

  3. Nice words Cliff.

    Binary thinking at it’s best.

    One or the other. Nothing in between.

    Keep it up. You’re on a sure track to disillusionment.

    Sad to see such a one sided editing of comments here but then again knowing the history of those who run this blog it comes as no surprise.

    There is a time and a place for little cameras. Just not everywhere or all the time.

    The world is not black and white Cliff. Reality will teach you that over the long run.

  4. Michael – the proposition that all old theories will eventually fail and be discarded is not the same as the idea that all new theories will eventually succeed. Howvere similar they may appear in the rear-view mirror.

    The disruption that threatens big media does not emanate from videojournalism but from the net. Videojournalism is one response to that threat.

    The most successful foray by a media heavyweight into the online world is undoubtedly guardian unlimited, very little video there….

  5. I know about reality, Rick. I have no illusions about it unlike yourself – you use a fake name and website to be able to post your derisive and pseudo elitist comments. And who says the world isn’t black and white? You?

    One sided comments huh? Umm – that like the pot calling the kettle black dude.

    I’ve been a visual content creator for 30 years now – I’ve seen the changes in image acquisition both in still and video, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t – you’re probably some former college graduate who was indoctrinated into believing only one way – shoot beta cam and edit on Avid. Whether you like it or not – your breed is going the way of the dinosaur – adapt or perish.

    As for me – I’ve done it the hard way – by trial and error and that is an education that far exceeds your piece of paper hanging on the wall.

    Evidently, you feel that your way is the only way – I have no illusions that the inexpensive cameras are the ONLY way – but they will be the way the MAJORITY of content is created and distributed. Before your narrow minded persona non grata started even remotely thinking about posting regarding this coming revolution that you have no control at stopping, I foretold online content distribution would change the face of this medium – back when 256 DSL connections was considered blazingly fast.

    You lack any sort of forward thinking vision – as compared to people like Michael, David Dunkley Gyimah, Pete Liebengood and others – it’s clearly evident in your constant whining over and over with your one track minded condescending comments about the solo VJ Paradigm.

    So go sit in the corner on your fake website and get a clue – looks like you need a time out.

  6. Hi Michael,
    What’s your opinion about adapting the creative destruction blindly in 21st century? Does it depend on the environment or other conditions such as competitors? What are the major differences with the environment now and at Schumpeters time? I welcome any opinions. Thanks a lot!

  7. Hi Mara
    Creative Destruction is an observation; a passive tool rather than an active one – a bit like watching a hurricane and forecasting when the next one will hit. It is something that we can prepare for, (maybe) but not something we can control. It is also as old as mankind. Alexander’s forces were able to overwhelm the far more powerful Persian empire because the lances he used were a foot longer than the Persian’s. (in those days, armies marched in phalanxes towards one another. the tips of alexander’s spears got to the mark a bit ahead of Xerxes’!) That was also a kind of creative destruction. It’s been around for a long long time.

  8. Thanks a lot! It really helped:)

  9. Do you think Creative destruction can be a basis for companies doing business in this century? or should other factors be considered before adapting it? Should the type of change be radical or incremental?

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