Writing about Goodreads and Amazon on Monday, I observed that "There are five companies currently fighting to own our digital lives": Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
This idea is adapted from a single-page infographic that Joe Kloc described in the November 2012 issue of Wired:
To best each other, the five companies also fight proxy wars over everything from GPS maps to book distribution, leaving a trail of defunct startups in their wake. In 2011, for instance, Google acquired 79 companies, only to shut down most of them and put their talent to work on other projects.
We've entered a time when strategic investments in new businesses are the competitive equivalent of table stakes. If publishers want to preserve their ability to play, buying into promising ideas and sustaining them over time need to become core activities.
Otherwise, venture-capital firms with a love of high returns (and no romance when it comes to traditional media) will continue to turn over good ideas to the highest bidder. When that's likely to be one of The Silicon Five, publishing (and publishers) would benefit to have some skin in the game.