Out with the old, in with the new . . . but when?

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The stories cut close to heart of someone who cut his teeth in business with print media just as computers were coming into general use (the late 1980s ‘desktop publishing’ era.) More and more, publishers are announcing they are closing or converting to digital-only long and well-established print publications. They are making the change out of necessity; as advertising revenue from traditional media dries up, transferred to online alternatives.

Most architectural, engineering and construction businesses aren’t facing the existential media business pain, though a few have had to make jarring adjustments because of globalization. (I’m thinking especially of steel detailers and shop drawing organizations, who saw their businesses decimated by low-ball offshore competitors, until they embraced the cheap labour offshore, and combined it with value added services only available in higher-wage environments.)

Nevertheless, there is plenty of change in the air. And I think the way we embrace, cope and in some cases delay our responses defines our business success and future.

I, for example, have spent a fair bit of time learning and understanding Google’s ad-server program (knowledge which has resulted in several visits to the Google mother ship in Mountain View CA) even though it generates a tiny percentage of our company’s income. Insights into online as well as offline publishing have allowed us to remain relevant to readers and advertisers, though the bulk of our revenue continues to be from advertisers primarily purchasing a “print” type product (the publications are produced as magazines, but we print only a tiny number of hard copies)

There are arguments about whether you should be fast off the mark with new technologies and practices or take your time and wait for wider adoption.  I would advocate that you allocate a meaningful risk-effort, allowing for mis-steps and joining the revolution too early. You might buy some time by delaying, but could quite easily discover you are left behind. Then again, as new concepts and technologies advance, you may find you can leapfrog the early adopters with some resourceful insights and lessons-learned experience.

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