When I read that Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, co-authors of The Second Machine Age, were releasing another book, I ordered it. While the topic of how technology will change our lives is no longer as fresh a concept as it was when they released The Second Machine Age in January 2014, their latest tome focuses more on the economic impact of technology today and in the future.
Some books are difficult to summarize. Platform Revolution is one such book because its descriptive content requires more. To follow up on my initial overview, I’ll provide a more detailed summary and wrap-up in this commentary of the key platform attributes described by authors Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary.
Some books are difficult to summarize. Platform Revolution is one such book because its descriptive content requires more. To follow up on my initial overview, I’ll provide a more detailed summary in this commentary and part III of the key platform attributes described by authors Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary.
Most people have heard of Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and PayPal. The growth and success of these companies and others stem from a technology-based business model that connects people and resources in an interactive ecosystem that creates and exchanges value while disrupting traditional businesses. That model is a platform and successful companies that utilize its power are transforming business, the economy and society.
In Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future, Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Jeff Howe, assistant professor and founding director of the Media Innovation program at Northeastern University, accurately describe the state-of-the-art in technology through nine organizing principles whereby adaptive individuals and organizations can respond to ever-accelerating technology advancements. In the introduction, the authors write, “our technologies have outpaced our ability as a society to understand them [and] now we need to catch up.” They note that the principles are not intended to be rules or laws, but rather complementary, unranked guidelines for achieving this goal.
If I value a book section based on the number of pages I have highlighted, the winner would be Part IV of the Content Trap, which rightfully advances and supports the points made previously with both evidence and conclusions.
Dr. Bharat Anand compares the success of media company Schibsted’s digital transformation (from text-heavy to picture-intensive, from careful editing to rapid publishing, and from daily publishing to real-time updating) to that of The Economist. The latter doubled its print circulation from 2000-2015 while integrating its digital and print content, without changing the speed and manner in which digital offerings were updated.
Dr. Bharat Anand writes about Mark McCormack, the legendary founder of International Management Group (IMG), who recognized that athletes could earn as much or more off the playing field, as on it. In signing Arnold Palmer as its first client, IMG grew to become the largest talent agency in golf and from there expanded to tennis, motor sports racing, track and field, baseball, football, fashion models, authors and musicians. The reason for IMG’s success was its ability to manage connections across products.
Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration is known for its case study methodology. In the Content Trap, Dr. Bharat Anand describes several corporate users, their industries, and the ways in which these companies improved their connections to enhance their growth and success.
We have witnessed declining newspaper readership over the past few decades, and many believe that the culprit is digital alternatives. Dr. Anand notes that this decline has been underway for more than 60 years, caused by multiple technologies from radio and TV networks to cable TV and 24/7 news channels. The impact of the Internet is no greater on readership than the technologies that preceded it. The other two sources of newspaper revenues are classified and retail ads. Classified ad revenues declined precipitously during the past decade (2000-2010) and the reason is that sellers and buyers favor products with more connections.
Bharat Anand, Henry R. Byers professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of The Content Trap, states in his afterword, “I knew that many things around us would change by the time I had finished it [and they did].” He recognizes, in an era of massive digital content generation, that content has not changed as much as the art of managing it, thanks to technology and the way in which connections are created. He sets the stage by explaining how content is valued and consumed by billions of people daily. As a result, businesses try to produce the best and most relevant content. The proliferation of content -- five exabytes (five billion billion bytes) are generated every two days -- creates “the problem of getting noticed.” The extremely low cost of digital content distribution, in turn, creates “the problem of getting paid.” The combination of the two problems is deadly.