The NYT Times has worked hard to cut costs and get people to pay for digital content. It has been more successful in this quest that many other newspapers around the world. But as more and more people read their news on smartphones, it faces challenges from digital-only news sources. Politico has published an insightful piece on the big transformation that still lies ahead for the NYT if it wants defend its position as leading news organization.
As far as I can tell, Thian is trying to move Credit Suisse in the right direction to make the firm more sustainable. But a large fraction of employees is in open revolt again him. Will be successful. The NYT reports: “When Tidjane Thiam took over at Credit Suisse last July, he laid out a new direction for a financial giant with a storied investment banking history: Do less investment banking. [...] One year in, Credit Suisse stock is down 50 percent. And the investment bank, the second largest in Switzerland after UBS, is in open revolt.” Read full story.
Elon Musk gave an interview that makes it clear that the fundamental objective for Tesla is not profits.
Question: The German automakers just presented their responses to Tesla in Frankfurt at the international automobile show. What do you think of the Audi e-tron quattro and the Porsche Mission E?
Any action in the direction of electric mobility is good. Our goal at Tesla is for cars to transition to e-vehicles. That’s why we opened up all our patents for use by anybody.
And who has used them?
Maybe the companies you already mentioned. When I saw a diagram of Porsche’s Mission E, I thought: It looks exactly like our car. Which is fine. It’s more important to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.
The founders of Kickstarter wanted to ensure that their company does not stray from their fundamental objective of ““help bring creative projects to life.” Now they have reincorporated themselves as “public benefit company”. The NY Times reports:
As co-founders of Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding website that lets people raise money to help fund all manner of projects, including cooking gadgets and movies, Mr. Strickler and Mr. Chen could have tried to take their company public or sell it, earning millions of dollars for themselves and other shareholders.
Instead, they announced on Sunday that Kickstarter was reincorporating as a “public benefit corporation,” a legal change they said would ensure that money — or the promise of it — would not corrupt their company’s mission of enabling creative projects to be funded.
“We don’t ever want to sell or go public,” said Mr. Strickler, Kickstarter’s chief executive. “That would push the company to make choices that we don’t think are in the best interest of the company.
The economist reports on the trouble of Tesco as UK consumers shopping habits change and the German discounters Aldi and Lidl roll our their operational models in the UK.
By any measure the figures were eye-popping, worse even than most analysts had expected of the struggling company. Tesco made the largest pre-tax loss, of £6.4 billion ($9.6 billion), in British retail history, eight times as much as the previous record, set by Morrisons last year. This was also the sixth-largest loss in the country’s corporate history. Most of it (about £4.7 billion) was due to a fall in the property value of Tesco’s British stores. This was not merely an accounting matter, but a sign of how its out-of-town hypermarkets have fallen out of favour with consumers who shop online or use smaller convenience stores. Underlying profits were 68% down on the previous year, at £961m, and overall sales were down by 1.8%. The stock that Tesco keeps in its warehouses is worth £570m less than previously thought, and the pension scheme is £3.89 billion in deficit. And so on.
Full Story on Economist.com
Gerhardt Steidl was asked: Many people call you the “king of printing” and some artists will trust no one else with their books. In what way are Steidl’s books different than other books?
Most of the publishing houses in the world are owned by shareholder companies and their interest is to make profit. My publishing house is a private business. I founded it in 1968 and it is still owned by me. It is a family business. It is a Manufaktur and we don’t set any limits on cost. A Steidl book is always made in Germany, in Göttingen, in Düstere Straße 4 and there is a guy, Gerhard Steidl, who is hands on. So, believe it or not, I oversee every sheet that tumbles out of our press. This craftsmanship and this know-how we bring to every one of our babies, our books, makes a huge difference compared to the production processes of other companies.
Source: The Talks
I have seen a lot of bookshops go out of business, including the famous bookshop on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. From Adelaide comes a new business model for having a physical bookshop that moves to different locations in the city. A pop-up bookshop. The owners write:
Curating an ever-evolving, eclectic mix of old, new and collectible books (in itself somewhat out of step), we’ve popped up in various locations, in various styles, within Adelaide’s CBD. On the street, at boutique markets, in cafes, empty shopfronts, arcades. The idea being that by putting ourselves in plain view, we remind people that bookshops exist.
Well, that’s our story too. In November 2013, we pushed ourselves by leasing a space on Adelaide’s main retail strip, Rundle Mall. Next door to French Connection, across from Nespresso, sharing mall frontage with Apple and Nike. It was a make-or-break philosophy – and we received the most amazing reactions from the public who just couldn’t believe what they’d stumbled upon. It lasted four months and we were encouraged enough by that success to give Rundle Mall another go this year. We’re putting a bookshop on the main stage in a city where people constantly – interminably to us – decry the fact there are “no bookshops in Adelaide”.
But how can this work? Our bookshop is a business. Businesses survive by making money. Bookshops don’t make enough money to pay big rents. All these statements are true, more or less. All we have is a complete, unfaltering faith that what we’re doing is worthwhile and important and, because of this, we’ll be OK.
At the moment, we sell just enough books to pay our wealthy landlord, buy stock and cover our modest living expenses. It’s long hours, risky and stressful but we love it. We need to make money to survive but aren’t driven by money. In fact, the short answer to the “how can it work?” question is that we sacrifice money for lifestyle. We treat it as a seasonal occupation, working unsustainably hard for a short period of time then taking a break.
Full Story in the Guardian
The Guardian reports on the problems of the existing business model:
Australia Post has warned its losses will amount to $6bn over the next 10 years unless the government allows it to change the price of sending letters.
The national carrier is forecasting its first full-year loss in 30 years, or since before it was corporatised.
Its chief executive, Ahmed Fahour, said Australia Post had a competitive parcel business, but losses from its letters business were swallowing up profits.
Fahour said the government understood the scale of the problem. “They either fund the next 10 years of losses, which could amount to $6bn, or we’re out of business,” he told Fairfax radio on Monday.
Australia Post reported a first-half profit after tax of $98m, down 56% on the first-half result of the previous year.
The letters business lost $151m, 57% worse than the loss in the first half of last financial year.
Fahour said Australia Post had never been subsidised and had always paid dividends to the government, but the world had changed.
“Either we get a massive injection from the government to keep the business going, or they give us the permission to manage the business and therefore no subsidy is required and the business can continue,” he said.
Letter volume decline accelerated to 8.2% year-on-year, the largest fall recorded since Australia Post’s letter volumes started falling in 2008.
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
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.”