The Atlantic Learns To Out-Innovate Itself

from the key-lessons dept

Last year, in doing my two minute video presentation on the innovator's dilemma, my final point in the video was that "out-innovating yourself, always beats being out-innovated by someone else." This isn't an original idea, certainly, but what always amazes me is how few companies actually understand it. They get so hung up on keeping their existing product in place, that they fail to recognize that the market is changing around them. They're so afraid of cannibalizing their own business that they don't realize that others are cannibalizing it for them. It's a key theme throughout many of the posts here, as businesses seek to prevent others from cannibalizing their own business, without realizing they need to do it to themselves or go out of business. Even in cases where companies claim they recognize this, actually implementing a self-cannibalization strategy is quite difficult. It often gets killed by internal politics from legacy players (the Time Warner/AOL merger was a huge case study in this phenomenon).

That's why it's always great to find the rare examples of an organization that seem to not just recognize this need to out-innovate yourself, but to also successfully implement a strategy for doing so. FolioMag has a short story about how the magazine, The Atlantic totally reinvented itself and did so successfully. Atlantic Media's President even made the point directly:
"If our mission was to kill the magazine, what would we do?" said Smith, who added that a digital competitor was going to do that anyway, so they did it themselves.
Read that again. There are so few companies that realize this needs to be a key element of their strategy. Someone else is out there trying to kill them. So do it yourself and reap the rewards. In the case of The Atlantic, it appears that the strategy they took was twofold: first, they realized they needed to be a "digital first" operation. That is, they recognized that digital wasn't just an adjunct to the print product, but a core element of the brand and the publication. So, they didn't look for ways to enhance the print product with some digital trickery -- but instead, looked for ways to make the digital product be fantastic on its own. And, now, nearly 40% of the brand's revenue comes from its online properties, at a time when many other publications that come from the print world are still struggling to get online revenues out of the single digits.

On top of that, it looks like Atlantic Media really did search for additional scarce reasons to buy that applied to the media field. The Atlantic realized that events (scarcity: access) were a big idea that many consumer publications ignored:
Smith has also built up the company's live event platform, and noted this is an area where consumer publishers often fall flat. "Consumer publishers don't view events as a profit center," he said. Accordingly, live event revenues have doubled over the last two years.
It's always great to see a company making smart strategic decisions, even if it conflicts with a legacy line of business.

This will also likely be one of the topics we touch on tomorrow night at the Techdirt Saves* Journalism event. If you haven't signed up yet, you're missing out. The signed-up attendees represent a fantastic and diverse mix of thinkers and doers from a variety of different fields (well beyond just journalism -- though, there are plenty of traditional "journalism" folks coming too). As I've been preparing for the event, talking to the other speakers and some of the attendees, it's getting more and more exciting. Getting lots of smart people together to brainstorm is always so much fun.
Hopefully, you can make it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:12am

    Up or out

    "There are so few companies that realize this needs to be a key element of their strategy. Someone else is out there trying to kill them. So do it yourself and reap the rewards"

    Steve Jobs said something similar when it was pointed out that the iPhone et al. were going to encroach into the iPod market. He said (paraphrasing) "If anyone is going to eat Apple's lunch, I want it to be Apple."

    Too bad that the more common response is to litigate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:32am

    Pride...

    Goeth before the fall, as they say. I think it takes so much ego to get yourself into the upper echelons of some of these ginormous companies that it's hard to admit that what you once did is not the end all be all and should be innovated upon....

    Sort of like these rating buttons on comments. No "funny", "comical", or "helmety" button? WTF, Mike? Have I had ZERO influence on you these past two years???!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    dave blevins, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:41am

    Sell your customers to your ..

    ... self-developed successor before a competitor steals them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    dave blevins (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:43am

    Sell your customers to your ..

    ... self-developed successor before some competitor steals them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:52am

    Re: Pride...

    Yea, I was kind of annoyed there is no "amusing" button or some such nonsense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    mdominguez2nd (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Up or out

    I'm presently reading "Unleashing the Killer App" by Larry Downes. In one section he writes the following:

    "The Twelve Principles of Killer App Design

    Reshaping the Landscape
    1. Outsource to the customer.
    2. Cannibalize your markets.
    3. Treat each customer as a market segment of one.
    4. Create communities of value.

    Building New Connections
    5. Replace rude interfaces with learning interfaces.
    6. Ensure continuity for the customer, not yourself.
    7. Give away as much information as you can.
    8. Structure every transavtion as a joint venture.

    Redefining the Interior
    9. Treat your assets as liabilities.
    10. Destroy your value chain.
    11. MAnage innovation as a portfolio of options.
    12. Hire the children."
    (Table 2.A p77)

    Funny how this book was written in 1998 and 12yrs later people are starting to wake up...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Jeremy Oudit, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:39pm

    An article on the Altlantic in support of pay walls

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Microsoft sorta kinda out innovates itself whenever it comes up with new operating systems and discontinues its old ones, trying to get people to constantly adopt its new ones. Is this good or bad for the consumer and to what extent I don't know.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    techdirt save* spam. it is amazing to see how much effort you have put into jamming your saving of buggy whip businesses. google should be embarrassed to have any part of this disaster. then again, they are looking for more free content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    Re:

    Which has to do with the Atlantic in what way? Hey, check out all this free content: http://www.theinternet.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 1:59pm

    "...that was bleeding money in 2007 and although he has not made the Atlantic Media Company profitable yet, he's brought the yearly losses down from an average $8 to $10 million to just less than a million." source

    So Journalism isn't quite saved yet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:01pm

    Re:

    Yeah that 10-13 year support on Operating systems is pretty low.

    Oh wait, what's that? That's the longest supported desktop and server OS on the market? Now I remember!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re:

    in a related story, mike finally reveals which member of his staff is assigned to annoy people who bring up contrary points.

    http;//www.getbent.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:43pm

    Re:

    anonymous troll* bores everyone. it is amazing to see how much effort you put into jamming your weak troll efforts into every single post. you should be embarrassed and go outside more. then again, internet trolls have nothing better to do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You didn't bring up any points, let alone contrary.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Re:

    You shouldn't "steal" our little ac's routine. It's immoral.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Your link is broken, much like your argumentative style.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:27pm

    Back in the LaserJet II/III days...

    HP did this back in those days. They were a great technology company back then. We had amazing increases in our HP 3000 minicomputer system as well, for cheap.

    I don't know if they maximized their revenues back then, but they were much better liked in those days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re:

    You mean to tell me Microsoft still services Windows 2000 or Windows ME or Windows 98? Give me a break.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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