Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

More illustrations of disruption from technology

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

While tech innovations have opened up new frontiers, innovation is disrupting some fields. Here are a few articles making this point that I’ve accumulated recently:  newspaper circulation continues to collapse, higher ed is increasingly vulnerable to disruptions, and accreditation agencies (which illustrate regulatory capture) show why disruption is needed.

1/20 – Richard Tofel at Medium – The sky is falling on print newspapers faster than you think – Author pulled together circulation numbers from March 2013 and September 2015 for the 25 largest newspapers in the country.

Guess what? Circulation is collapsing.

Here are just a few of the numbers he accumulated:

  • 3/13 – 9/15 – % chg – newspaper
  • 1481k – 1064k – (28%) – Wall Street Journal
  •   731k –   528k – (28%) – New York Times
  • 1424k – 299k – (79%) – USA Today – Yes, a drop by 4/5ths.
  • 1595k – 1186k – (26%) – My calc of total for New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Those three barely have more reach than the WSJ.

Here are a few illustrations of smaller papers:

  • 286k – 164k – (43%) – Arizona Republic
  • 241k – 141k – (41%) – Tampa Bay Times
  • 193k – 117k – (39%) – Orange County Register

Loss of circulation around 30% for the biggest papers and around 40% for the smaller papers over the course of about two and a half years. That’s what a collapse looks like.

How would you like to work at a company when the largest players in the industry are seeing something in the range of 11% shrinkage a year and the second tier companies are shrinking around 16% every year?

1/6/16 – The American Interest (previously Via Meadia) – Goldman Sachs: Higher Ed Ripe for Disruption – A report from Goldman Sachs explains the “wage premium” for going to college is shrinking. That would be the difference seen in the overall difference in income of those who graduate from college and those graduate from high school. The wage premium grew in the 1990s but the growth stopped in the early 2000’s and for some colleges it is dropping. That means the extra earnings from college are shrinking.

That means the payoff from going to college is shrinking. Phrased differently, higher ed is delivering less value.

The article points out two things could severely disrupt higher education. First would be massive open online courses (MOOCs). If, or rather when, those take off brick-and-mortar colleges will be in severe trouble.

A variation of this would be employers or industries putting together a small-scale series of courses to teach skills that are desired or test the ability to complete such courses using specific skills.

The other thing that could severely disrupt higher ed is the development of alternative methods to evaluate skills. A national exam would be one possibility.

Another possibility is systems that identify your current work as a basis for assessing skills. There is something in the coding world that allows tracking what has been coded by a particular programmer. Not sure how that works, but consider writers and journalists. If you want to see how well someone writes, just search the ‘net and you can read a lot of their work.

10/4/15 – Wall Street Journal – Trust Busting Higher Ed Educational article (pun intended) on the monopoly power wielded by the accreditation agencies who are controlled by universities.

Terrible illustration of existing providers protecting themselves and freezing out innovators and preventing new competition. Editorial also shows how this creates massive upward pressure on tuition.

The editorial didn’t make this point, but the accreditation system also illustrates regulatory capture. That is the concept which suggests that over time those who are regulated take control of those who regulate them.

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