In some ways, I envy you.
If you are an architect, engineer, or contractor, your certainly are experiencing changes and competitive pressures. There are new players on the block, and you can’t rest on your laurels — or you’ll be picked off by one change or another. And if times are good, you know the next recession will turn the cyclical markets topsy-turvy and you’ll need to adapt and adjust quickly if you wish to remain in business.
My circumstances are somewhat different.
I started my publishing business in 1988, exploiting the then-brand-new “desktop publishing” technologies. Until then, if you wanted to produce a newspaper or magazine, you needed to contract with an expensive service provider (often the printer) to prepare the content for publication. Although linotype machines had given way to computer-driven typesetting by then, the equipment cost thousands of dollars and would be uneconomic for an individual small publisher.
Now you could start a publishing business on a shoestring, and that is what I did.
However, in 2018, the rules are different. Print media has given way to online publishing, and for most publishers, the transition from print to online has been anything but smooth.
One reason is that, in the online world, the potential “space” for advertising is virtually endless, and the direct production costs are near zero, so the product scarcity has been redefined through an auction process and a race to the bottom in pricing.
(Google can take a lot of credit for this devaluation. It initially opened the door for anyone with a website to skim off some advertising revenue through its brokered AdSense program; massively increasing the number of publishers and encouraging even more inventory creation. Only recently has Google started stiffening up the program entry requirements to such a degree that inventory may be at last constrained again, allowing prices to rise somewhat.)
As pricing power in our sector has declined, of course, we’ve had to make sometimes painful adjustments if we want to survive. Two roads have been open to us. We can ruthlessly cut costs; or we can truly focus our niche and marketing so we can retain the higher-yielding revenue opportunities. But the forces are against us.
I’m not complaining about these changes. We’re still in business as this enterprise’s thirtieth anniversary arrives, and some thankful decisions in earlier years mean that our family should have enough resources going forward.
Compare this story to your own business. Sure, technology has impacted architecture, engineering and construction — and I expect the impact will accelerate in the years ahead — but Tesla still needs its “superfactory” and Apple is completing its massive new headquarters; and we all need places to live and work. You can adapt and implement the technology in your operations; but you don’t have an existential fight on your hand yet. Maybe modular, integrated and consolidated building systems such as Katerra will change things — but I can’t yet see the overall market falling apart.
You have time to adapt; certainly much more time than those of us who have been living in the publishing world. Be thankful.