The world is undergoing change at an almost unimaginably rapid speed. Technology has forever changed the way we do things. Some companies are figuring out their new place in the world and lots aren’t. Disintermediation is eliminating markets, making certain skill sets irrelevant, bringing new players into the field, increasing competition, consolidating success, and bringing change to every facet of business at an increasingly unforgiving pace.
Facebook replaced MySpace. MySpace replaced Friendster. And Friendster replaced people actually talking to one each other.
By 2019 there will be over 21 billion connected devices around the world. Everyone is connected to everyone else 24/7/365. Average smartphones users stare at their devices more than 1,500 times a week. More people own smartphones than toothbrushes. Almost ten percent of all retail sales are currently made online. One quarter of those sales are made on mobile devices and the trend is increasing at over 27% per year.
Tesla has only been around since 2003 but their new totally electric twin-engine car is the fastest sedan ever built, faster than any BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, and all the rest. Apple is the most valuable company in the world and they’re not even 40 years old yet.
David Letterman and Jay Leno are no longer the kings of late night. Jon Stewart is no longer the king of fake news. Brian Williams is no longer a newsman. Bruce Jenner is no longer a man.
In 2012 Business Insider estimated there were 644 million active websites. That number should exceed one billion this year. In 2013 there were an estimated 152 million blogs on the Internet. And today it is estimated that 86% of American adults have access to the web and all those blogs. That percentage grows to 95% for Internet users under 33.
TV went from three channels to four to hundreds and hundreds. Movies went from theaters to TVs to laptops to tablets to smartphones. Movies were first distributed on film, then VHS, then DVDs, then thumb drives. Now they stream directly into our handheld devices.
Blockbuster competed with cable channels HBO and Showtime and Starz and all the rest who then competed with Netflix and Redbox who now compete with bit torrents and Amazon Prime. Music, too, made the journey from 78s to LPs to 8 tracks to cassettes to CDs to MP3s to streaming on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Radio and whatever’s coming next.
Hundred year-old Swiss handmade watches companies like Rolex, IWC, and Patek Philippe battled Japanese quartz releases from Seiko, Casio, and Citizen only to now have to compete against digital entries from Microsoft, Google, FitBit, Jawbone, and Apple.
Were you a fan of the TV show Mad Men? Do you know where they found the time to drink so much? It’s because planning advertising was easy back then. All you had to do was choose between TV, radio, newspapers and magazines and billboards. And if your budget was big enough, you could afford to buy them all. But change has hit the media business hard. Besides traditional media you now have to divide your resources amongst social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest; online tools such as SEO and SEM; blogs and YouTube videos; e-books and movie placements; Google searches, contextual advertising, and more. What’s next? Geo-located advertising on smartphone apps like Waze. What’s after that? Beats me. I only know that it will change again.
We used to believe that the more complicated your profession, the less chance you could be ousted by automation or online workers from Asia. Uber could replace taxis, do-it-yourself cash registers could replace manual checkouts, and self-serve pumps could take the place of gas station attendants but doctors and lawyers would be safe. But that was only until radiologists in India started reviewing American x-rays online and sites like Legal Zoom provided forms for estates, contracts, and divorces.
The New York Times’ National Assessment of Adult Literacy reports that 14% of U.S. adults (32 million) can’t read and 21% more (48 million) read below a 5th grade level. Worse, 63% of prison inmates can’t read. But before you pat yourself on the back for your ability to understand what I’m writing about here remember that the future of literacy is all about computer coding and I’d venture that nearly 100% of us don’t know how to do that.
Comedian Steven Wright might have been kidding when he said, “I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time” but today he’d be telling the truth.
It’s a brave new world and we’re all hurtling into a new year that will be full of more change and innovation than any of us ever thought possible.
I hope the coming new year is also full of lots of enjoyment, opportunity, and happiness for you and everyone who you hold dear. And make sure you do hold them because it’s gonna be one helluva exciting ride.