End of an era?

Just read a very thought-provoking post by Jeff Jarvis which argues that the economic woes we are facing aren’t just another economic downturn (even if a big one) but something more fundamental: the start of a large reshaping of entire industries being wrought by the 15-year-old internet.

Bill Gates famously said that we have a tendency to over-estimate the effect of technology in the short-term but under-estimate it in the longer term. And I think we saw that in spades during the first internet bubble – and will see it again as the Web 2.0 bubble busts, too.

But during that 15 years – and despite the cycles – the internet has been growing exponentially and as hardware has got more powerful, software more intelligent and the network more capable, more and more parts of our lives have moved there.

This is certainly already apparent in publishing: I was struck by the remarks by Trinity Mirror ceo Sly Bailey at last October’s AOP Conference that the economics of publishing had fundamentally changed, and that 2008 would become known as a defining moment in the evolution of digital media. This was before the scale of the layoffs being planned was clear: 1,200 jobs lost and 44 titles closed.

Jarvis says he believes the media industry will come to think itself lucky that it was early in the process because almost all industries will go through the same wrenching change as they adjust to the online revolution – but they don’t see what’s coming because they still think we’re just in a downturn.

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2 thoughts on “End of an era?”

  1. “Lucky” feels a little strong, but I think it’s pretty clear that we’re suffering the arrival of both a cyclical downturn and a structural change at the same time.

    If businesses can survive that former by adapting to the latter, they’ll be in a strong position when the economy turns around. Those that only look at the cyclical downturn are probably in very serious trouble.

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