News item — Murdoch’s News Corp ponders MySpace sale: Loss-making social networking site has found it tough competing with rivals Facebook and Twitter.
I have asked my students this question: “How many of you have a Myspace page? How about a Facebook page? My experience is this – Myspace came and went in the blink of an eye, and Facebook has come, and stayed, and all of my students not only have a Facebook page, but use it constantly. (In fact, my own son, who – how do I say this delicately?…, is not too interested in reading my blog posts…, actually reposted my recent blog post on obesity from my Facebook link to his Facebook link).
Facebook has clearly and soundly defeated Myspace, and at the moment no rival seems to be rising to make much of a dent in its dominance. Why?
Here’s one reason – Mark Zuckerberg is one of those rare business geniuses. Of course it takes a team: the right people with the right skills and the right chemistry working together throughout the entire enterprise… But it takes a singular vision from a key/the key player. Consider Steve Jobs. Consider Mark Zuckerberg.
But at the heart of this competition stands the focus of this modern day business genius – a constant, unyielding focus on innovation.
Here is a brief excerpt from a story about the decline of Myspace that captures this (from the Huffington Post, How News Corp Got Lost In Myspace by Yinka Adegoke, Reuters):
Zuckerberg’s great strength, say his one-time rivals from Myspace, was that he and his team were focused on product development and innovation while Myspace had become too concerned with revenue and meeting traffic targets of its Google deal.
“The technology fell behind and it just shows that even when you have a massive user base you still need to offer something new to keep people engaged,” said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.
A focus on innovation and product development produces the possibility of dominance. A focus on revenue produces vulnerability.
By the way, what’s your business focus?
By the way, take a look at the bottom of this blog post. With a click of your mouse, you can post this to your Facebook page. (Please do so!) Do you see the Myspace button? I didn’t think so…
Here is a business lesson, cloaked in a beautiful story — a beautiful story in the midst of horrible tragedy. (Read the full story here).
A group of Trappist monks in Iowa have donated a handmade casket to bury 9-year-old Christina Green, the youngest victim in the Saturday attack that killed six and wounded 13 others in Arizona.
The casket, crafted from red oak, was made especially for 9-year-old Christina. She died after a gunman opened fire at a constituents event held by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in the shooting.
Christina’s funeral is scheduled for Thursday in Tucson.
The lid of the casket was inscribed with her name, date of birth and death, and a cross. The family also will receive five small keepsake crosses hewn from the same wood as the casket.
Before the casket was sent from the monastery in Iowa to Arizona, the monks gave the casket a special blessing inside their chapel on Tuesday.
This strikes me as providing great comfort to the grieving family.
And here is the obvious business lesson – when you are truly the very best at what you do, you and you alone will be the right choice when the need arises.
(let’s call this a lesson in business focus).
No, I don’t know the future of the book business, (or the restaurant business, or the car business — or any business, for that matter.). I don’t know if physical books will survive in the e-books era. I don’t know if people will be able to read anything much longer than a Tweet or a text message in years to come.
But in reading about the fall of Border’s (it may be nearing the end…), I was reminded of a story told by David Halberstam years ago.
First, Borders. In What Went Wrong at Borders by Peter Osnos at the Atlantic site (read it here), Mr. Osnos closes with this:
Len Riggio, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and the successful independent proprietors, whatever their other business virtues and flaws, really have a deep attachment to books and the people who read them. But when Borders expanded, they brought in executives from supermarkets and department stores (all of whom insisted they were readers), and the result was a shuffle of titles and more downsizing against a backdrop of financial engineering, which only seemed to make matters worse. Ultimately, a successful bookstore, on any scale, depends on a specific understanding of how to make the most of the outpouring of books and the digital transformation that will attract readers. Whatever else Borders does in the months ahead, it needs to recover its belief that real book-selling is an art (with all the peculiarities that entails), as well as a viable business.
It’s such a subtle point, yet so clear – it simply seems like really obvious common sense. If you want to succeed in the book business, it might help if you love books. A supermarket and department store expert may know a lot about a lot of other stuff, including management and sales – but he/she may not love books.
I confess — I think I would love working in a book store. I would walk the aisles during my breaks, and always spend every available dollar buying as many books as I could afford (and probably quite a few I could not afford). Walking up and down the aisles of supermarkets or department stores just does not have the same allure to this book lover (although, I might like to sample a whole lot of Häagen-Dazs – better keep me away from there!)
Now to the Halberstam story (Told from memory – I heard it in an interview from somewhere long forgotten). Years ago, he told of a time when Walter Mondale, while Ambassador to Japan, toured the largest steel plant in Japan. After a while, he asked his host’s opinion of (now dissolved) Bethlehem Steel. After 30 minutes of very careful Japanese politeness (“father of the industry; great company; great legacy…”), his host finally asked “why is Bethlehem Steel buying banks?’ It was then that Mondale realized that the steel makers in Japan loved steel. Whereas in America, the steel makers loved money. And in the steel business, the steel lover has a definite advantage over the money lover.
I don’t know who the last physical book seller will be. But I think I know this – whoever it is will love such books to the end, and he or she will hate to see the books go every bit as much as he/she hates to see the job end.
I hope you love what you do.