The four C's disrupting businesses

Bambi Francisco Roizen · February 22, 2011 · Short URL:

Larry Kramer, C-Scape author: Don't make the mistake the railroad industry made

This is the second interview with Larry Kramer, founder and former CEO of MarketWatch, which he took public in 1999, and sold to Dow Jones in 2005 for $500 million. In this interview series, we're taking a look at Larry's book "C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today," which is a carefully thought-out account of what has been plaguing the media industry and how busineses should adapt and react. As one of the pioneers of digital media, and a former journalist, Larry brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to paper by offering up a rich tapestry of stories and facts shaping the media industry today.

In this interview, we talk about the four C's affecting not just the media industry, but businesses in general. They are consumer, content, curation and convergence. These four elements have profoundly left many industries in disarray. This is mostly in part because businesses are creating new products and marketing them without understanding the new world order. In like vein, some of today's businesses are in danger of acting like the old railroad barons. "As business people often say, the industry's big mistake -- and the reason that car companies replaced the railroad industry as the main source of transportion in the United States - was that the railroad barons didn't realize that they were not in the railroad business, they were in the transportionat business," as Larry writes in his book, and touches on in this interview. 

How do you apply this to your business? "It means that you are in the business of serving your audience, not perpetuating your business model," said Larry. "Newspaper readers want news, not necessarily newspapers."

Briefly covering Larry's four "C's," let's start with consumers. They're more in control, as we all know. Indeed, I don't believe mine or Larry's children will ever know a world where they can't get a movie, song, or information on demand. Larry explains that consumer control over media started with the TV remote control. Consumers are also often the best distributors of content and salesmen of products.

If content was king in the old media paradigm, it's even more so today with tens of thousands of distribution channels. "Content is the only sure thing," said Larry. Owning the distribution outlet has become leass important, he said.

Curation has also risen in importance. Huffington Post is a great example of a new media company that has succeeded in curating content across the Web. (VatorNews is also another example of a curator. VatorNews has 350-plus contributors posting their opinion pieces on VatorNews.) In TV, curation is manifested in stations like Fox, which has curated a number of conservative voices and opinions.

Convergence is disrupting the way businesses need to think about incenting its employees. For instance, an electronics retailer might have once given bonuses to employees who could sell the most appliances at the store. But if consumers want choice and prefer to purchase an item online, then an employee should also be incented to encourage the sale wherever it happens. "People need to adjust their award systems," said Larry.

For more on our interview, please watch the show.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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