At the beginning of the week, I mentioned
a conversation I had with someone concerning a Phone book company's desire to remain relevant in an age where most people just access the Internet for information. I also said that I would discuss further what I talked about, but have only now just been able to get to the post.
So let's take a look at the situation. We have a company who made their name in the days of print media, specifically in the arena of phone books. 15 years ago even, phone books were the go to method for locating people and businesses in your area. Today though, the Internet's explosion of information has almost completely encompassed the need for a physical phone book. Now, how does a business like that (and indeed this applies to other print media companies as well) stay relevant in an age of Internet access? In one word, "glocalization."
Glocalization, is a neologism (new word) that is a mashup (portmanteau) of Globalization and Localization. It has several uses, but the way I'm using it now essentially means "Using the global resources available to make an impact in local communities." I was thinking about this concept and mashed the two words together myself, thinking I was rather "clever." Well when I hopped on the Internet, I found that the term had already been in use, though one of the meanings mentioned in Wikipedia
is rather close to the way I was using it.
So let me explain this a little further. Most of human history has focused on the local community. Initially this was out of necessity as modes of travel were rather inefficient, but even as travel improved and people started traversing the world, people still primarily lived, acted, and thought within the local community sphere. It wasn't until the communication explosion of radio and TV, and more recently the Internet combined with ease of travel that came with cars and airplanes, that our focus shifted. We became obsessed with the global. More and more our focus shifted away from the local communities to the global events of the world. Recently though, there has been a major shift back to local communities. Despite, or perhaps because of, the globalization of information, people are becoming more interested in their communities.
So how does this apply to a company that makes phone books? Phone books are extremely local. The ads in phone books primarily come from local businesses and only cover people and businesses in your local area, but it's not enough to just be a source of local information anymore. We have too many resources available to us already to provide us the ability to find a business. We even have plenty of means to read reviews for local businesses. Sadly though, the information is scattered. Yes, you can just google the business name and search for reviews, but in our impatient society, who wants to spend hours searching through websites and forums looking for reviews on a business?
So what I proposed, and would like to see happen is for a website to provide a local experience. Take aspects of Craigslist's local listings, combine it with a yelp style consumer review system, and add facebook-like interactivity and you have a place where people and businesses can come together. This is not just to find the location of a restaurant, plumber, etc, and not just to find reviews of the place or coupons/discounts, but also place for business to interact with its customers online. Imagine a place like 48days.net focused on your local community.
There are naturally some challenges to this approach. 1st and foremost is that for this to work, you need buy in from both businesses and local citizens alike. 2nd, the site has has has to be easy and intuitive to use. If you need to get people to sign on to it, then you can't make it difficult for the less technically savvy. 3rd, for it to be really useful you'll have to have extensive enough coverage so that people in smaller communities don't feel left out.
So how does a print business providing information obtained easier on the Internet remain relevant in the future? Well it's going to require an almost complete overhaul of the corporate structure and a dramatic change in focus. Personally I'm curious to see if a company that big and set in its ways can make the changes necessary to remain relevant or will they fall by the wayside?