Surviving Disruptive Technologies- week 3 Newspapers

Into the third week of this MOOC and it’s becoming significantly more interesting. The initial weeks have provided examples of companies or industries that have already been disrupted and massively changed by technological changes. Now we’re looking at those currently undergoing change.

The sessions on newspapers are particularly interesting- parallels could be drawn here between this industry and that of higher education( which we will be looking at later in the course).

Prof Lucas makes an impassioned plea for the continuing existence of newspapers, by highlighting activities they carry out that might not be done so well by other news organisations. In particular he highlights the importance of investigative journalism,citing the Watergate affair, to which for the UK we could add investigations over MPS expenses and phone hacking. The other key function is the provision of analysis of the news.

Looking at the parameters of the model for disruption:
Resistance to change
Mind set
Sunk costs
Lack of imagination

I would suggest that many remaining newspapers might not score too badly, particularly when we regard how they are using new technologies to distribute their content (websites, Kindle, iPad editions). However, there is still the difficulty of monetization and loss of advertising revenue to deal with. In addition as indicated in a New York Times article, many businesses have other structural problems such as underfunded pension schemes, unserviceable levels of debt, legacy manufacturing processes and legacy union and labour agreements.

The key thing for newspapers will be to identify what business they are in and how to use technology to support them.

They are clearly not just in the business of reporting news. They are in the business of investigation and provision of analysis and commentary. (The tabloids in the UK are probably in the business of providing something to read at lunch for those in jobs where Internet connectivity is not available).

The next week of the course will look at education, but there are parallels between the newspaper industry and HE that we can start to consider.

Like newspapers we will cease to be in the business of transmission of information ( although attendance at many of our lectures wouldn’t convince you of that).

Like newspapers we need to identify what is the added value that we can provide to readily available information.

I would suggest that from a teaching and learning perspective, the role of the university is about: curation of resources; identification of suitable packages of information; provision of support for learning; accreditation of learning. In addition there is our role in research, generation of new knowledge and support for business and per organisations.

It’ll be interesting to see how the next week’s sessions on education pan out.

Finally,as part of an undergraduate education, there is still a part of me at thinks that all students should read a daily broadsheet newspaper!