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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A dramatic sign of our digital times

Observation:   If you want to know just how wired we have become, you can look it up in an encyclopedia… but soon, the only up-to-date version of that information source will be online.  Encyclopaedia Britannica has announced that it will discontinue its printed version, according to this story from the New York Times (click to link).

Implications:   The company has been publishing these impressive volumes for 244 years.  Wisely, they’ve also been publishing on the web for many years, and seem to be focused on staying current with mobile devices.   What remains to be seen is whether their business model can prosper in a world where information has become so eager to be free, through sources like Wikipedia and a seemingly infinite list of other web resources.

Once upon a time, buying air travel used to be a complicated ordeal, often requiring the intervention of a travel agent to interpret the numerous options and seemingly foreign language of the airlines.  That process was ultimately simplified, and information once controlled by experts was released to the general public; we can now shop for and purchase plane tickets from the miniature screen of our smartphones.  (For that matter, I find the best time to plan my travel is when I’m sitting at 30,000 feet using GoGo.)

What information does your business control?  Could your business actually grow if you figured out a way to relinquish that control to the consumer?  Could your company suffer is someone else figures it out first?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

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