Lessons from the latest wave

I, like Dan Pacheco, believe the tipping point for traditional newspapers is within three to five years. Depending on how you look at it, the tipping point has already past, but like an earthquake in the middle of the ocean, the waves haven’t hit shore (but that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming).

Ken Doctor seems to suggest that the tipping point came one evening at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver in 1998 about the time many of us thought we were near the beginning. Maybe.

Truth be told, the history of newspapers on the Internet is littered with missed opportunities, wrong turns, and a lack of investment that all seemed smart (or at least prudent) at the time because of the industry’s strong herd instincts.

Update: The McClatchy company, which acquired the assets of Knight Ridder, is now worth less as a company ($1.5 billion) than it paid for those assets ($4.5 billion). (Knight Ridder itself was compelled to sell by a disgruntled shareholder who didn’t like the company’s valuation.)The Marginalization of Newspapers, Greg Sterling.

Back to AOL, which was like newspapers in its heavy dependence on subscriber revenues. Reacting a few days ago to the latest round of bloodletting at the once mighty “You’ve Got Mail,” Pacheco says:

The problem … is that sometimes changes in consumer behavior force transitions to happen too quickly for mainstream companies to react as gradually as they’re designed for. So first they panic by laying people off to trim operations, and if that doesn’t work they often end up laying off even more people just to pay the bills. And sometimes they go out of business, or are sold to the highest bidder.

It’s knowing that the waves are coming that provides the opportunity even if we can’t predict with certainity the exact day and time.