The whole world on the shelf…
When I was a kid my parents bought the World Book Encyclopedia.
It was amazing.
Particularly that thing on the human body, where they had those transparent pages of organs, bones, veins and stuff. Fantastic.
I tried to read the whole thing, starting at the A’s. I got as far as the middle of C. Go ahead, ask me anything about Aandora or Antarctica.
The World Book was Google, for an era of print. If you needed to know something, there it was, on the shelf at home.
When the telephone was invented in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell the patent for the telephone to Western Union for $100,000. The president of Western Union declined, stating that the telephone was nothing but a toy.
This was not arrogance. This was and is typical.
Companies are formed not around ideas, but rather around new technologies. The technologies arrive and inherent in that technology is an opportunity. As with the telegraph. A company is then architected around that technolgy and the ways of working and even of thinking are then cast as a function of that architecture. When a new technology comes along, companies are not only reluctant to embrace that new technology -they generally simply cannot. It would mean deconstructing the entire basis of their business.
Humans are notoriously reluctant to change.
So World Book, which was for many years in the business of cataloguing and delivering information to the public should have developed Google, or purchase it. Google was, in fact, offered for sale to Yahoo for $1 million, and Yahoo turned them down. For $1 million, World Book could have put themselves on the cutting edge of a new technology that did, essentially, what they already did, only better.
If you knew what was coming you would have said to World Book: “Listen to me. Buy Google. Stop publishing the books. Turn off the presses. Stop making the see-through human body stuff. Stop binding the books.”
Yet they could not.
Neither could Encyclopedia Britannica.
That did not make World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica bad publications.
On the contrary.
But it did mean their death knell.
Who today has purchased a World Book? Anyone? Anyone?
Now we come to newspapers.
Like Encyclopedia Britannica or World Book, they are lovely institutions filled with fascinating and important information.
Then along comes a new technology. A technology that does what they do, only better.
Now go talk to a newspaper or a TV news station, knowing what you know and knowing what is coming.
See what happens.