Your Business is Dying…Now What?

by | Apr 13, 2005 | Marketing

The LA Times is feeling the effects of the population’s media consumption moving away from print, but their $10 million solution leaves much to be desired.

Large companies tend to get so wrapped up in their own momentum that they fail to notice that the rest of the world has changed direction.

The music industry is one obvious example. While the population is growing increasingly used to the idea of downloading individual music for free in the convenience of their own home, the music industry is vigorously pursuing a path that expects those same individuals to get dressed, drive to the mall, and shell out big money for a piece of plastic that only has one or two songs they actually want.

As powerful as they may be, it’s doubtful that the music industry is going to single-handedly turn an entire society away from its preferred method of acquiring music. Instead of adapting and innovating in new markets, though, they’re putting tremendous effort into postponing the inevitable.

The Los Angeles Times has found itself in a similar position, facing the terrifying prospect that newspaper readers are a dying breed. Their circulation actually declined almost 6% last year.

Though they calmly attribute this to new telemarketing legislation and changes in their sales strategies, the truth is more disturbing:

How is the L.A. Times planning to save themselves from this monumental shift in media consumption? With a marketing campaign, of course.

Instead of reinventing themselves into something people actually want, they’re going to spend $10.5 million dollars trying to convince people to subscribe to a medium they don’t want.

$8 million of that amount is going to be spent on direct mail. They actually believe that the indisputable power of their glossy mailers will inspire a significant percentage of people to suddenly change their lifestyle and welcome the L.A Times into their home every morning.

Good luck with that, guys.

In a situation where the market is disappearing from under their feet, a large company really has only two viable long-term options, both of which involve luck, pain, and radical change:

  • Fall back to a position you can hold: If the economy won’t support juggernaut papers anymore, maybe it’s time for the L.A. Times to accept a smaller but more sustainable market. They could downsize dramatically, simplify their operations, and focus their marketing to a specific segment of their audience. Combined with some strong branding efforts, they can find and secure a niche that will keep them going strong for years to come.
  • Redirect your momentum into a new market: Imagine the power of a company with the resources and talent of the L.A. Times being fully dedicated to becoming the leading news provider on the Internet—instead of merely dabbling with it, as most papers have been doing. They could change the face of online media in a matter of months.

These are both risky options, though, and high-level executives tend to look at both options as failures. Nobody wants to be the first to declare that the old ways aren’t working anymore.

So, instead of investing in a strategy that might revitalize (or at least stablize) their company, these powerful decision-makers simply throw money at the problem and try to hold off the inevitable as long as possible.

Don’t let your company’s momentum take you right off the tracks. Anticipate the flow of social change, even when it requires difficult decisions, and you’ll always have a thriving market.

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