In the mid 1800s in the US there was a great rush west, and this one wasn’t about gold. It was a rush for land, very specific land in fact. As the manifest destiny was coming to fruition, the railroad companies knew that they needed to find the easiest / cheapest ways to get by the mountains to reach the west coast. They knew that if they could obtain the lowest cost / fastest route between the coasts, that no one would be able to compete with them. They would have locked down a huge competitive advantage if they could be the first mover. Looking at the mountains, they realized that the gaps between the large mountain bases (ie “the narrows”) would give them the ability to make the journey quicker and cheaper than trying to go over portions of the mountains. Once they secured the land, and their first mover advantage, they had ensured their role and future success.
Today, we see a similar “seizing of the narrows” in our 4 spheres of the digital media landscape. Facebook anchors Social, Google anchors Information, Apple anchors Entertainment, and Amazon anchors Transactional. All of these companies have secured their spots by moving quickly, focusing on a quality product. and building for the long term. With such significant advantages by these “anchors” (ie cash, brand, size), what could possible derail any of them? In my view, it would be the failure to recognize the confluence of the spheres, as they move closer together. Much as technology (airplanes) ultimately shifted the power of the initial narrows advantage, changing technology and new competition will change the current landscape over the years to come. The “new narrows” may reside in payments, mobile, voice control, TV, distribution, or some new technology. With the confluence of the spheres, understanding the layering of the various “graphs” will be paramount. The companies that foresee the changing landscape should be well positioned….and those that don’t… they may end up owning a lot of useless land in between barren mountains….