retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is Face Time with the Content Guy...

Want a reminder of how old world business models have become virtually obsolete? It’s possible that one came in your mailbox this week.

On Tuesday, I got my dead tree copy of Newsweek. The cover story was “Notes from a Royal Wedding,” which might have been interesting if a few other, more important things had not happened since those two nice British kids got married in one of the most over-covered events in recent media history.

I guess it could have been worse. The story could have been about the President’s birth certificate.

Now, Newsweek isn’t at fault on this one. The simple fact is that the killing of Osama bin Laden happened after they put the week’s issue to bed. They certainly had all the up-to-date reporting on the Newsweek website, but the flagship product was shown in no uncertain terms to be obsolete. To the point that I would argue that the folks at Newsweek ought to be seriously considering whether the flagship product ought to exist at all, or least how the company should begin planning for its demise.

How many businesses are facing the same issue: having a core product that is either irrelevant or on its way to obsolescence, but a management team that doesn’t recognize it or isn’t doing anything about it? I suspect a lot. I suspect more than would want to admit it.

Now, I have other problems with Newsweek. Last week, the cover story was about the Olsen twins and how they’ve built a billion dollar empire. I thought it was going to be a story about America’s new billionaires, a kind of post-recession piece about how the economy is coming back, using them as a lure into the story. But it wasn’t, and I didn’t even want to read the rest of the magazine because this single story was so far outside my interest zone. Again, the flagship failed me in a way the online edition would not have.

How many businesses are making the same mistake: distributing a product to the mass market that is so at odds with the interests of core customers that it hurts the brand? And making this mistake because they don’t really know who their customers are, or what they want?

To stretch the metaphor a little farther....

There was an editorial this week in Advertising Age that examined the departure of Katie Couric from the CBS Evening News, noting that they tried to tweak the program when she got there so they could play to her strengths, and when that didn’t work they asked her to work against her strengths and do the same old newscast, which didn’t work either.

Ad Age suggested that nobody faced the real problem - that the evening newscasts are watching their audiences erode largely because so many people are getting their news faster and in other ways, and because fewer and fewer people are even home at 6:30 at night to watch them. In other words, maybe the whole concept has to be rethought and reinvented for the 21st century. Sometimes, simple tweaking and recasting doesn’t cut it.

Again, a question, using a different metaphor. How many businesses are repainting instead of remodeling, or remodeling instead of investing in a whole new structure? More, I suspect, than would want to admit it.

These are serious issues that need to be reconsidered. The retailing graveyards are filled with the carcasses of companies that did not face reality, did not see the new competition coming, and had senior executives who may have hoped that retirement age would get there faster than reality.

That’s what’s on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to know what is on your mind.
KC's View: