The Guardian provides an update on how Fairfax, a company we features in our course 7 years ago, is doing:
Hywood counters by claiming that readership has never been higher – Fairfax’s website is the most popular news site in the country, and a barely-believable 5.1 million visitors access it every month. However, this is missing the point.
It is not readers, it is revenue that is needed to run those great full-service newsrooms. And cut-throat competition has driven online advertising through the floor – for every dollar a newspaper loses in print advertising it is lucky to recoup 10 cents online. Few newspapers are lucky enough to be owned by a trust, rather than accountable to shareholders, like the Guardian, or to attract a fairy-godfather like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has adopted the Washington Post.
Hywood’s solution has been to diversify into a dozen different fields. Fairfax’s metropolitan newspapers now produce less than half its revenue. The company has morphed into selling baby goods, organising fun runs and ocean swims, a dating service, a real estate site. It has partnered with Channel Nine to launch a video-to-the-home service, though many fear this will end in tears. Apart from its unlikely name of Stan, it is about to face formidable competition from the world’s largest and most aggressive player in video-streaming, the US giant Netflix, which launches in Australia next month.
But many fear these ventures are just postponing the inevitable demise of the newspapers that have chronicled the country since the earliest days of white settlement, leaving Murdoch, at least for now, with a monopoly on everything Australians read in print. “They’ve saved the company, but f——d the papers,” as one analyst told me.
The digital revolution is devouring printed travel guides. Lonely planet is a case in point. The BBC bought the company forf $210 in 2007 and sold it last year for roughly $121 million. Here is a instructive figure charting the decline in printed guide sales.
In a wide-ranging interview with the NY Times, Nadella explained his views on how to organize for innovation.
Q. Your company has acknowledged that it needs to create much more of a unified “one Microsoft” culture. How are you going to do that?
A. One thing we’ve talked a lot about, even in the first leadership meeting, was, what’s the purpose of our leadership team? The framework we came up with is the notion that our purpose is to bring clarity, alignment and intensity. What is it that we want to get done? Are we aligned in order to be able to get it done? And are we pursuing that with intensity? That’s really the job.
Culturally, I think we have operated as if we had the formula figured out, and it was all about optimizing, in its various constituent parts, the formula. Now it is about discovering the new formula. So the question is: How do we take the intellectual capital of 130,000 people and innovate where none of the category definitions of the past will matter? Any organizational structure you have today is irrelevant because no competition or innovation is going to respect those boundaries. Everything now is going to have to be much more compressed in terms of both cycle times and response times.
So how do you create that self-organizing capability to drive innovation and be focused? And the high-tech business is perhaps one of the toughest ones, because something can be a real failure until it’s not. It’s just an absolute dud until it’s a hit. So you have to be able to sense those early indicators of success, and the leadership has to really lean in and not let things die on the vine. When you have a $70 billion business, something that’s $1 million can feel irrelevant. But that $1 million business might be the most relevant thing we are doing.
To me, that is perhaps the big culture change — recognizing innovation and fostering its growth. It’s not going to come because of an org chart or the organizational boundaries. Most people have a very strong sense of organizational ownership, but I think what people have to own is an innovation agenda, and everything is shared in terms of the implementation.
Source: NY Times
The founders of Whatsapp were very clear that did not not what to sell advertisement through the messaging app. (See their 2012 statement.They did not even want to collect data on their users. So why did they sell themselves to Facebook, which is all about collecting more data on us to sell it to advertisers? Here is a clue in their blog. Maybe they were tired of having to manage a business rather than just design a product.
AOL, whose dial-up internet business was destroyed by fast cable, DSL and not mobile phone internet connections connections (see graph) is trying to reinvent itself as a content company. It was to write local news and take the Huffington Post global. Read details on Economist.com: AOL’s second life.
Michael Dell believes that the stock market will be able to stomach further profit declines that are required to make investments for the turnaround.
Mr. Dell told the board that the only way out involved changes in the company’s business model and expensive investment in new products and services. “Implementing such initiatives would require additional investments that could weaken earnings and cause greater volatility in the performance of the common stock,” the filing said Mr. Dell argued in a Dec. 6 meeting.
“Mr. Dell stated his belief that such initiatives, if undertaken as a public company, would be poorly received by the stock market because they would reduce near-term profitability, raise operating expenses and capital expenditures, and involve significant risk.”
To win more time to turn around Dell, Michael Dell with the help of a private equity partners is taking Dell Computer private again. One of the reason the turnaround since 2007 has not been sufficient is that tablets have eaten into the market for PC in a way that Dell did not expect. The WSJ reports: “When asked in a 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal what surprised him most since he returned as Dell CEO in 2007, Mr. Dell said the rise of tablets had been unexpected for him.
“I didn’t completely see that coming,” he said, before adding that he didn’t anticipate business users would give up PCs soon.”
The WSJ reports: “Microsoft’s newest version of Office, available starting Tuesday, is a radical change from the past. For starters, Office 365 has a surprising new price model: It is available as a subscription that can automatically renew each year, if you choose. This new system constantly updates program features year round. Every time you open a program in Office, you will be running the latest version.”
Time had nominated Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO as a candidate for the Person of the Year. Will Cook be able to make Apple come out with another revolutionary product, revealing to us what Steve Jobs saw in Cook. In any case, here is how Cook was recruited by Jobs to Apple.
Almost immediately after he arrived at Compaq, Cook began to get calls from Apple’s headhunters. Jobs was back from exile — he was pushed out from Apple in 1985, then rehired 12 years later — and he wanted to bring in somebody new to run operations. At that point Apple was generally considered to be in a death spiral — that year alone, it lost a billion dollars — and Cook had no interest whatsoever in moving. But Jobs was a legend in the industry, so Cook sat down with him one Saturday morning in Palo Alto. “I was curious to meet him,” Cook says. “We started to talk, and, I swear, five minutes into the conversation I’m thinking, I want to do this. And it was a very bizarre thing, because I literally would have placed the odds on that near zero, probably at zero.”
Cook was interested in Jobs’ strategy, which he describes using a favorite Cook expression, doubling down: “It was the polar opposite of everyone else’s. He was doubling down on consumer when everybody else was going into enterprise. And I thought it was genius. Compaq was doing so poorly in consumer, didn’t have a clue how to do consumer. IBM had left. Everybody was kind of concluding that consumer business is a loser, and here Steve is betting the company on it.”
HP once was the icon of good management. But for the past 10 years it has gone through several CEOs and the middle of a turnaround has to write off $9 billion dollars because it acquisition of Autonomy turned out to be a fiasco. HP alleges that Autonomy mis-represented its financial worth. The founder of Autonomy claims that HP destroyed Autonomy within one year.
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But here is also a voice that articulates that if you are buying a company to secure your future, many deals will go wrong but some may go right and prevent you from becoming irrelevant.
Acquisitions is like doing R&D with a high failure rate.