If Your Legacy Business Is Threatened, Call the Innovators Unscrupulous

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Sign at Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. Photo via Wikimedia commons

By Chris Jennewein

If your long-established company with high profit margins is under attack by innovators, what’s the strategy? Easy…accuse the innovators of not playing by the rules.

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Robert Thompson, chief executive of News Corp., is just the latest scion of established industry to blame the innovators. In a March 29 speech he singled out Google and Facebook for creating “an ecosystem that is dysfunctional and socially destructive.”

News Corp., publisher of The Wall Street Journal and many other newspapers, is “hoping, mostly against hope, that they will finally take meaningful action, not only to allow premium content models that fund premium journalism, but also to purge their sites of the rampant piracy that undermines creativity.” He added for good measure that the Internet giants are responsible for the rise of fake news.

To paraphrase his speech, News Corp. believes that Google and Facebook are only successful because the “Silicon Valley set” is unscrupulous and doesn’t play by the established rules. Furthermore, rather than adapt newspapers to the Internet, he believes the innovators should change their business practices to support newspapers.

There’s an echo of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” philosophy here. Trump told voters the country’s economic and social challenges were caused by immigrants, Mexico and China, not any fault of Americans not wishing to adapt to change.

Thompson’s speech was in Hong Kong, the former British colony that is now a part of China and increasingly chafing under Communist party control. So it was ironic that he used the word “Orwellian,” asserting that “when it comes to the all-powerful algorithms of Google, Amazon and Facebook, Orwellian is underused.” Of course, China doesn’t like the U.S. Internet giants either, because they promote free speech and supposedly subversive ideas in a tightly controlled country.

My own news website, Times of San Diego, couldn’t exist without Google, Amazon and Facebook. Google is an advertising partner, displaying high-quality ads on my site and paying handsomely. The low-cost hosting for the site is provided via the Amazon cloud. And sharing on Facebook puts our news in front of thousands of San Diegans daily.

Twenty-five years ago, before Netscape make the Internet a household word, a new local media source could not have survived in San Diego. Competition from established local newspapers and television stations would have killed it. But thanks to Thompson’s derided “Silicon Valley set,” Times of San Diego has gone from an idea to 200,000 readers a month in just three years.

Widgets Magazine

It may not be as easy now to be a newspaper publisher, but blaming the innovators is truly fake news.

Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.

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