Grant McCracken is sure there is an “anthropology of decline” that documents the symptomatology of regime transition. In fact, he keeps a simple typology on cardboard in his wallet….to make it easier to identity institutions in their last days.
Stage 1. Benign neglect
In the early days of regime transition, the incumbent (aka New York Times, Wall Street Journal) treats the new challenger (aka bloggers) with a certain high handed indifference. If acknowledgment occurs at all, it comes with a patronizing pat on the head, as in “Hey, aren’t the newcomers charmingly amateur? Welcome to the party. Now, run along and get me a drink.” More often, bloggers are not acknowledged. They just don’t matter.
Stage 2. Lordly disdain
Blogging actually wins a couple of battles. In its “wisdom of crowds” way, it begins to threaten the traditional players. These respond with certain sneering, scolding, dismissal. The implicit message: “who do you think you are, don’t you know who I am?” Now we’re getting somewhere.
Stage 3. Irritation plus Obfuscation
As it turns out, bloggers refuse to wither in the face of high handed treatment. In fact, they get stronger. Their victories grow more numerous. Their voice becomes more compelling.
Now it’s clear that the traditional media outlets must pay attention. They begin to “cover” blogging. They begin to read blogging. They begin to help themselves to its content.
And now they begin to see the writing on the wall. If Wikipedia can rise to become a creditable challenge for the Encyclopedia Britannica, surely the NYT is vulnerable too.
It seems to me massive sea changes have always been part of the business world. What’s new is how fast they come, and how permanent the change is in their wake. All the more reason to empower the change agents within existing organiztions today, before the organizations in question are too busy treading water to save themselves.