(Larry Kramer is the author of C-Scape, a book on the changing landscape for media and related industries for Harper Collins (published Nov., 2010). He also founded MarketWatch, which was sold to Dow Jones in 2005. This story is on the launch of Appinions and its technology to track consumer behavior.)
The latest tombstone in the “old media” cemetery is Kodak.
Once the most powerful name in photography, Kodak stands out as a company that took too long to understand what its real purpose was. It wasn’t to make film, it was to take “pictures” that allow their customers to preserve images.
It’s the same issue the newspaper industry faced because they were so busy protecting a newspaper business model that was dying in front of them that they forgot their real business, as defined by their customers, was to deliver news and information.
This isn’t a problem that has reared its head only in the media world. Remember trains? If the huge railroad companies saw themselves as transporting people and freight rather than running trains, they would have been more involved in the development of cars, trucks and airplanes than they were. And they would still be huge companies today.
It all comes down to a single simple point: As a business, define yourself through the customers you serve, not through yourself. In the end, if you are in business, you are in business to serve customers, not just yourself.