How Wall Street's Short Term Thinking Can Destroy Tech Businesses

from the gotta-look-to-the-long-term dept

For whatever you think of either Amazon.com or Google, one thing that's worth giving both companies kudos for is their ability to ignore the short term questions raised by Wall Street in favor of much more strategic long term thinking. It's been less clear with Google, who has consistently done well. But Amazon has, for years, faced numerous questions from Wall St. analysts who consistently seem to get upset by the company's willingness to invest in big long-term projects. Other companies, unfortunately, get swayed too easily. For example, last year, Sprint gave in to short-term thinking from investors who got upset that the company was spending so much on its next generation wireless strategy -- despite it being an absolute necessity.

The latest place where that may be happening is with Netflix, which has been investing heavily in its digital download strategy -- causing some Wall Street folks to complain that the company is spending too much, and it won't make sense until the majority of users switch over. However, as Greg Sandoval points out, if Netflix follows this path, it'll be dead. That's because these projects take time. If you wait until the majority of your customers will switch over, they've already switched over... to your competitors who didn't wait around for Wall Street's short-term thinking to catch up.

This same issue comes up all too often, by the way, in discussing the various business models that the entertainment industry can adopt -- with people insisting that the record labels and movie studios should wait until the model is proven and everyone else is doing it. The problem, at that point, is that the laggards have lost all relevance, and their brand and reputation are worthless at that point. Betting on the long-term means not being a follower -- because in waiting for others to create the new market, you'll be left too far behind.

Filed Under: long term, short term, strategy, wall street
Companies: netflix


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  1. identicon
    Nick, 4 Jun 2008 @ 6:53am

    Re: Re: Even microsoft doesn't get it right.

    @freddy bee: you don't hear about it anymore, because it's been going on for so many years it is no longer news. Both MS and Linux are taking server market share from the old proprietary Unix installations, but Linux is taking more of it than MS. MS is having to keep XP alive purely to avoid surrendering entire new market segments (ultra portables and ultra low-cost desktop computers) to Linux, since Vista is too resource hungry to compete in those areas. Linux is making much greater inroads into the embedded device market than Windows CE is.

    The only area where MS still has the advantage is the desktop market, and even that is under threat (particularly outside the US where companies and particularly government have a vested interested in not being completely beholden to a foreign supplier).

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