Nieman Journalism Lab recently featured an extensive interview with Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor most closely associated with the development of “disruptive innovation”.
The interview, conduced by Joshua Benton, touches upon work that Christensen did several years ago as part of the “Newspaper Next” project. Reflecting on the half-decade that had passed since his original work, Christensen observed:
“I’m proud but also sad to say that pretty much everything that we foresaw is happening. I think we didn’t quite understand, and still don’t really understand, how quickly things fall off the cliff. I think the reason why this happens is that, even as the disruption is getting more and more steam in the marketplace, the core business persists, and really quite profitable for a very long time. Then, when the disruption gets good enough to address the needs of your customers, very quickly, all of a sudden, you go off the cliff.”
The middle of the interview examines the implications of an idea, pioneered by Christensen, that consumers “hire” products and services to fulfill an identified need. This solution-based approach to creating and delivering results ultimately breaks apart prevailing media business models, many of which are more or less container-driven.
Innosight, a consulting firm that has built its practice around helping companies address disruptive innovation, offers three actionable strategies:
- Understand the criteria customers apply in choosing between solutions.
- Pinpoint an important job that isn't being done adequately.
- Unlock markets by eliminating barriers for customers.
In media businesses, making that happen means letting go of some cherished models and building new skills sets around the creation, management and dissemination of information. In that light, it’s interesting to read about Knight – Mozilla’s code-sharing project, Source. Aimed at newspapers, Source "provides users with the ability to easily search its index of newsdev source code as well as look up the developers and organizations who have contributed work to the community."
Sharing code, competing on service and developing tools that help readers hire content to address an immediate need: this is a new media reality. It's one that starts by understanding how readers hire media to fulfill an purpose.