Creative Destruction

October 17, 2009 at 11:04 am (By Amba)

It’s all very well to approve of it, to cheer it on in principle, but the thing is, you can’t pick and choose what it’s going to destroy.

There’s a fairy-tale quality to it — turning loose the baby dragon, then having to live with the unintended consequences.

Print media, for instance (one of which I work for, a lot like being a deckhand on the Titanic).  Natural History is a good thing.  A physically beautiful little magazine that keeps science mindful of its roots, that maintains a bridge across time, with constant traffic back and forth, between the 18th-century cabinet of curiosities and the postmodern particle accelerator and PCR machine, and between science and the arts.  It has a venerable tradition:  counting its first 18 years as The American Museum Journal, it’s been publishing since 1900.  And it has one of the most fiercely loyal subscriber bases I’ve ever heard of:  even now, when everyone’s online, the renewal rate is around 85 percent.  You get the feeling that a lot of its subscribers have been reading it since childhood.

But it’s a print medium — an endangered species.  (You knew Gourmet is folding, right?)  Like the newspaper, that’s one of the things creative destruction is destroying.  Never mind your childhood, your history, your tradition, your comfortable habit of anticipating some beautifully wrapped mind candy in the mail every month.  That’s all dispensable.  It’s all paper in fire.

Conservatism is a curious and contradictory thing.  To love tradition and also celebrate unfettered capitalism seems like a recipe for heartbreak.  You can try to let God rule your moral life and Darwin rule your economic life, but really, how can you separate them?  How can you tout values when creative destruction is value-free?  Creative destruction has a mind of its own.  It’s driven by appetite and effectiveness, not by sentiment or principle.  It’s sort of like a hurricane of Buddhism.  Attach at your own grief.  Evolve beyond natural affections.  Become as ruthless as that which created you and will destroy you.  Learn to love nothing but the twisting dragon of change.  Or be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.

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61 Comments

  1. Icepick said,

    but the thing is, you can’t pick and choose what it’s going to destroy.

    Yes you can. That’s what the TARP and TALF programs have been about! God* save C and BoA!

    Conservatism is a curious and contradictory thing. To love tradition and also celebrate unfettered capitalism seems like a recipe for heartbreak.

    That’s because American conservatism is both heterogenous and misnamed. Social conservatives tend to be very progressive (in terms of wanting more government) and economic conservatives are truly liberals in the old sense. (And there’s the libertarian fringe, which is better thought of as anarchy-lite.)

    * In the Earthly-guise of the Federal Reserve System of the United States of America and the United States Treasury Department. God works in mysterious ways.

  2. amba12 said,

    Well, you and I can’t pick and choose what it’s going to destroy. Bernanke, Summers, Geithner, on the other hand . . .

    (But they’re just postponing, and growing, the inevitable. Don’t you think? Just keeping that dragon in the nest longer, feeding it too much, letting it grow bigger without any exercise or responsibility.)

  3. trooper york said,

    All things change and decay and die. It is the way of the world. Natural if you will.

    Where I live is an old school Italian neighborhood that has gone through a lot of gentirification. It is a “Historic brownstone site” so a lot of the houses are protected by various laws to preserve and “conserve” them. But the ambaince and character of the neighborhood has changed radically. Now you have people who have moved in twenty years ago that the real old timers still look at as new comers who are the ones that complain the most. They got on the life raft and now they want to pull the ladder up. But change and destruction of the fabric of the culture is inevitable.

    I always tell the story at the store that 300 years agoe their was a indian sitting in front of his wigwam right in this spot on Court St. He was saying to himself. “Man this is the greatest, bestest wigwam there ever was. I ain’t never gonna leave here. I love it.”

    Then some Dutch guy offered him twentyfour dollars and he moved to Staten Island.

    Change is gonna come. You can’t really conserve anything. It will be different. Don’t shovel against the tide. Destruction will come to everything. Creatively or otherwise. That is what we all have to deal with. How we handle it when things we love decay and die and are destroyed.

  4. trooper york said,

    Wow that was boring.

    How about a breast joke?

  5. amba12 said,

    Not boring to me. You’ve come to the right place if you wanna be “boring.” Specially if you also make me LOL.

    Fort Myers Beach, Florida. We got there in 1955 so to the people who’d been there since before paved roads and mosquito control (or rather, when mosquito control meant eating your watermelon neck-deep in the Gulf of Mexico — my mom did the oral history) thought of us as the invading Yankees, even though it was a sleepy little place where you could go shopping barefoot.

    Now it’s part of the fastest-growing urban area in the U.S. And people who buy a condo with a beach view (including lots of Jews from Chicago — I’m afraid we started that! — and a remarkable number of Germans) still think they’ve lucked out. Who are we to wish them away?

    But we do.

  6. Icepick said,

    But they’re just postponing, and growing, the inevitable. Don’t you think? Just keeping that dragon in the nest longer, feeding it too much, letting it grow bigger without any exercise or responsibility.

    Yes. We’re currently in the extend and pretend phrase.

  7. Icepick said,

    Grrr. PHASE, not phrase. Although it’s both. GRRR.

    I blame tiny distractions. ;)

  8. amba12 said,

    Tiny distractions loom large! The world in a grain of sand.

    Trooper: your joke is proof that money is the solvent, the catalyst (catabolist? cabalist?), the agent and reagent of creative destruction.

  9. trooper york said,

    Amba, too many big words so early in the morning.

    I have to stick with the poop jokes.

  10. amba12 said,

    Freud said money is shit . . . better?

  11. amba12 said,

    Freud was full of shit.

  12. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Amba, would your magazine be as good as it is if it didn’t have to worry about going away?

  13. trooper york said,

    Son: “Daddy, I have to write a special report for school, but I don’t know what Politics is.”

    Father: “Well, let’s take our home as an example. I am the bread-winner, so let’s call me Capitalism. Your Mum is the administrator of money, so we’ll call her Government. We take care of your need, so let’s call you The People. We’ll call the maid the Working Class and your brother we can call The Future. Do you understand son?”

    Son: “I’m not really sure, Dad. I’ll have to think about it.”

    That night awakened by his brother’s crying, the boy went to see what was wrong. Discovering that the baby had seriously soiled his diaper, the boy went to his parents’ room and found his mother sound asleep. He went to the maid’s room, where, peeking through the keyhole, he saw his father in bed with the maid. The boy’s knocking went totally unheeded by his father and the maid, so the boy returned to his room and went back to sleep.

    The next morning he reported to his father.

    Son: “Dad, now I think I understand what Politics is.”

    Father: “Good son! Can you explain it to me in your own words?”

    Son: “Well Dad, while Capitalism is screwing the Working Class, Government is sound asleep, the People are being completely ignored and the Future is full of Shit.

    (For all the liberals, enjoy you commies)

  14. amba12 said,

    Jason: I think that’s always the fear part of what drives excellence. There’s a desire part too — the carrot and the stick.

    There’s a lot of competition though, and some of the competition has been a lot nimbler about adapting to the online world.

  15. amba12 said,

    Freud was full of shit. It’s politics that’s like shit.

    Money is only like shit when it stops moving.

  16. Icepick said,

    Money is only like shit when it stops moving.

    You’d think that since it was made out of paper the fiber content would keep things moving along.

  17. trooper york said,

    A pirate walked into a bar and the bartender said, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while. What happened? You look terrible.”

    “What do you mean?” said the pirate, “I feel fine.”

    “What about the wooden leg? You didn’t have that before.”

    “Well, we were in a battle and I got hit with a cannon ball, but I’m fine now.”

    “Well, ok, but what about that hook? “What happened to your hand?”

    “We were in another battle. I boarded a ship and got into a sword fight. My hand was cut off. I got fitted with a hook. I’m fine, really.”

    “What about that eye patch?”

    “Oh, one day we were at sea and a flock of birds flew over. I looked up and one of them shit in my eye.”

    “You’re kidding,” said the bartender, “you couldn’t lose an eye just from some bird shit.”

    “It was my first day with the hook.”

  18. realpc said,

    “Conservatism is a curious and contradictory thing. To love tradition and also celebrate unfettered capitalism seems like a recipe for heartbreak. You can try to let God rule your moral life and Darwin rule your economic life, but really, how can you separate them? How can you tout values when creative destruction is value-free? ”

    Everything human is a “curious and contradictory thing,” not just conservatism. I think the point is to differentiate what you think “should be” and what is. Conservatism, more or less, is a philosophy that tries to accept the world the way God made it. God was not thinking “How can a make a world that is pleasant and comfortable for this particular species, homo sapiens? How can I make sure they experience pleasure, but not loss or disappointment? How can I give them all comfortable affordable housing and steady jobs, that are not too stressful?”

    God was not thinking that. Of course we can’t possibly know what God was thinking, but it seems obvious he was not thinking that.

    If you want technological progress, then you have to accept that things will change rapidly and disturbingly. And if you don’t want technological progress, well you will get it anyway, like it or not.
    .

  19. realpc said,

    Amba, life is a heroic struggle, for all of us. We will lose the war, but we can win some of the battles. It’s glorious and unbelievable and tragic and it will end. There is some part of all our minds that can’t accept our utter helplessness and our inevitable defeat. That goes for every magazine and every love, and every single one of us. It’s creative destruction.

  20. reader_iam said,

    That’s because American conservatism is both heterogenous and misnamed. Social conservatives tend to be very progressive (in terms of wanting more government) and economic conservatives are truly liberals in the old sense.

    Icepick: That’s so dead on.

    Also, hooray for “little distractions”! ; )

  21. Ron said,

    Creative destruction….let’s see, lets’s see…

    What did Jeffery Dauhmer say to Lorenna Bobbitt?

    You gonna eat that?

  22. Icepick said,

    Also, hooray for “little distractions”!

    Oh yeah!

  23. Icepick said,

    Tiny distractions loom large! The world in a grain of sand.

    And oh so true. The big perception change someone mentioned last night has commenced.

  24. Rod said,

    Like so many threads here, this one seems to be going in multiple directions at once. I’d like to start at the top, with Amba’s observation about change. First, i agree with just about everybody that change is inevitable. Second, we are not very good at seeing where it is heading. When a new technology emerges, we tend at first to see only the problem it solves and the most superficial problem it creates. It quickly became apparent that cell phones could solve the problem of being inaccessible when away from home or office. It was soon obvious that everyone in business would be expected to be accessible 24/7. We did not foresee that cell phones could be used by terrorists in third world countries as an early warning system against approaching American jets.

    Some things are worth saving, not just as museum pieces. Some things are saved, and some reemerge in ways we scarcely can imagine. I guess that’s what makes it interesting.

  25. dustbury.com » Tales of the baby dragon said,

    […] called this process “Creative Destruction,” and the name stuck. Amba reminds us that we don’t have a whole lot of control over it: It’s all very well to approve of it, to cheer it on in principle, but the thing is, […]

  26. amba12 said,

    Rod: apropos, commenter McGehee at Dustbury wrote,

    It comes right down, I suppose, to being willing to watch the world burn (metaphorically, of course) just to be able to see what will grow from the ashes.

    There is a school of thought that God, when He granted us free will, had much the same motivation: He just wanted to see what would happen.

  27. amba12 said,

    Related: ever notice that when something bad happens to you or someone you love — an illness, an accident — it is never, ever what you anticipated? It’s always something out of left field that totally blindsides you?

    This is why worrying is a waste of time.

    The same thing is true on a collective scale. Who, in what science-fiction novel, could have dreamed up AIDS? And even the people who planned September 11 had no clue that the buildings would fall down.

    Good things don’t seem as random. The element of the unexpected there is in the almost miraculous way things come together (eh, Ice?).

  28. reader_iam said,

    I’m not sure how to respond to/answer that (10/17, 10:52), Annie. Because while you know there’s something in my life which, in fact, was beyond blindsiding and entirely, utterly not anticipated–still I disagree almost entirely, with what you just wrote. Or at least my experiences have been such, and what I have learned is, that I think it’s not so very hard to foresee the bad stuff. Far harder? Something other.

  29. reader_iam said,

    Who, in what science-fiction novel, could have dreamed up AIDS?

    While he didn’t, specifically, dream up that, Michael Crichton could have, and sort of did.

    And even the people who planned September 11 had no clue that the buildings would fall down.

    While he didn’t, specifically, write that, Tom Clancy could have, and sort of did.

  30. amba12 said,

    It’s not hard to foresee that there will be bad stuff. That’s a given.

    But if you mean that the blessings have been beyond your wildest dreams (and I know better than to expect you to explain yourself!), then that’s a wonder to behold. What matters most, it seems to me, is the core of life where I can’t say that about my own experience, but God bless you that you can.

  31. Jason (the commenter) said,

    amba: There’s a lot of competition though, and some of the competition has been a lot nimbler about adapting to the online world.

    I think you have it all wrong. Lot’s of publishers have been distracted by the internet and stopped producing things people want to read. There are many publications which have no web presence and are profitable and growing. We have a newspaper in my area which does nothing but print pages of mug-shots and what the person was arrested for. It only started recently and is very popular. And I’ve read about local newspapers which specialize in full page ads (not classifieds like the big newspapers) and don’t have any web presence on purpose (it cuts into their profit margin).

    So stop worrying about the internet. Readers writing online about things they read is the only web presence anybody should want.

    This should be your internet strategy: Be interesting enough that people want to write about you.

  32. amba12 said,

    Well, I sure thought that Microcosmos interview was worth writing about.

    There’s been another problem, though: you can’t get Natural History on a newsstand. If the article someone writes about isn’t online, you can’t see it unless you either subscribe or go to a library.

  33. amba12 said,

    And that doesn’t work. You can’t get someone to subscribe on that basis. You have to give them interest and pleasure first, so they’ll want more.

  34. reader_iam said,

    What matters most, it seems to me, is the core of life where I can’t say that about my own experience, but God bless you that you can.

    That’s the place at which you and I arrive, however carried, together, and on which we agree, profoundly. It’s why I was drawn to you the very first time I read you on blog, and why I’ve loved your writing since that time, and both why and how I’ve steadily grown in love not just for your writing, but, more important, for you. *You*, Annie.

    **

    (Also, yes: It is the blessings that have been beyond my wildest dreams. The curses? Never.)

  35. amba12 said,

    That first made me aware of how sad I am, and then immediately after, that then again, maybe not! My half-empty cup runneth over. :)

  36. Donna B. said,

    My only complaint with this post is that I know of no one who celebrates unfettered capitalism, except the nuttiest of the Big L Libertarians.

    And because I like to make up my own definitions, I prefer to think of creative destruction as that which replaces (and enhances) without destroying.

    The automobile replaced the horse and buggy in general use, but the horse and buggy is still with us. It’s just now a niche rather than ubiquitous. (One of my stepbrothers has a fine surrey (no fringe) and a magnificent horse specially trained to pull it… it’s an awesome sight and he sometimes drives it to the local small-town grocery store.)

    While feminism and other pressures of education have mostly eliminated home economics and shop class from junior and high schools, these are now classes paid for by grown-ups who think learning to sew and build are worth knowing.

    Newspapers, books and magazines still flourished after radio and TV became popular because they were the only venue for “in depth” reporting. The internet competes with them now, but it competes more strongly with TV and radio. The strength of the internet is in linking to an actual source rather than just putting it in a footnote.

    Some of these sources are videos, and I find them fairly useless unless there is also a transcript. But now… instead of having to pay $$$ for a transcript of a TV news program, there are volunteers who provide them on the internet for free. Sometimes. Text is the “bottom line” of information IMHO.

    While I do not ever want libraries to go away, I do want to see them make their holdings available on the internet. How to pay for the labor to do this seems to be one obstacle. On the other side, preservation of textual and graphic information created digitally is another.

    In my mind, any sufficiently creative destruction must somehow preserve the old way. Else, it’s just destruction.

  37. amba12 said,

    That immediately reminds me of something Marshall McLuhan wrote, which was in essence (if I have it right, big if) that obsolete technologies become art. When something begins to pass away you become more appreciative of it, more conscious of it; you no longer take it for granted. Nostalgia then can become a preserving force.

    That word “preserving” is key. We’re very binary in this culture, in spite of our (all-male) Trinity, But Hindus had three manifestations of God (also all male, but each inseparable from his consort, I think): Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Creation, maintaining/sustaining, destruction.

    If there was only Brahma and Shiva, things would be born and turn around and die. There wouldn’t be lifespans. We take Vishnu for granted. Another name for him is “health,” for godsake.

    I used to have a notion that Vishnu was a housewife. That that was a lot of where that energy was on the everyday level. But it’s also museums, libraries, Model T clubs, memory, history, ecology and conservation. It’s also the heart of conservatism. In a world of constant change, what must we never lose? One of the things we must never lose is that impulse to protect things (historical sites; endangered species), which is a counterforce to creative destruction, which slows it down or reroutes it enough to save some things, or some parts of things that can find new uses.

  38. Icepick said,

    Related: ever notice that when something bad happens to you or someone you love — an illness, an accident — it is never, ever what you anticipated? It’s always something out of left field that totally blindsides you?

    I have to take some issue with this as well. It often seems to me that the bad thing isn’t something unanticipated, but something the person in question just refuses to acknowledge. For example, I’ve know two couples that ultimately ended up divorced. The thing is, most of the people knew they would end up divorced even before they got married. The people involved, however, just didn’t want any part of knowing that themselves. Willful ignorance is one of the great common failings of humanity.

  39. Icepick said,

    Also, I can’t think of any SF stories that came up with an AIDS analog, but I’m about 95% certain there must be one. Crichton isn’t the only SF author to write of disease! And SF authors have loved(?) diseases, especially diseases that had a sex-related angle. (I’m thinking of Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog and Tiptree’s Houton, Houston – Are You There?, although it’s possible neither used a disease specifically to (Ellison) make almost all the world’s men sterile or (Tiptree) kill all the world’s men. Unfortuantely I don’t have either story immediately available.)

  40. Icepick said,

    maintaining/sustaining

    This is something which modern American (big) business has ignored. Often people only get judged on the new business they generate. Personally, I always found this daft. What about maintaining (lucrative) current business? Myopic incentive structures have lead us over the edge!

    PS And sorry to pile on.

  41. amba12 said,

    Pile away!!

    I just flashed on an affectionate memory from about age 11: sledding in the park across from my house, which had a sunken center so it was rimmed with a regular little hill and filled with ice for skating. (Chicago. There was ice.) The girls would flop down on the sleds and start downhill, and the boys would pile on top of the girls. In 11-year-old terms, this was SO romantic! (There was one I particularly liked, of course; in what was perhaps a portent of things to come, he had an accent and spoke broken English; his father was a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution. Geza Budai.)

    The problem with this post probably is that in typical blogger fashion I’ve turned a personal observation into a grand, sweeping generalization. Got to break that habit, even though it’s fun. I should have said: In my experience, nothing bad that has ever happened to anyone in my life has borne the slightest resemblance to what I had imagined, worried about, or anticipated. (I should add that I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in that regard, knock on wood, spit three times, etc.)

  42. Jason (the commenter) said,

    amba: That word “preserving” is key. We’re very binary in this culture, in spite of our (all-male) Trinity, But Hindus had three manifestations of God (also all male, but each inseparable from his consort, I think): Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Creation, maintaining/sustaining, destruction.

    But Shiva is also about salvation. If you worship the god of destruction you can obtain salvation.

  43. michael reynolds said,

    Books and bookstores and paper magazines are just about done for. The economies of digital delivery are just too overwhelming: no paper, no ink, no delivery trucks, no retail stores with their expensive real estate and air conditioning and staff.

    Publishers are an endangered species. I’ve been writing Cassandra memos to my editors for about two years now telling them they need to be ready, to adapt, to create new types of product — enhanced e-books, for example.

    In those two years I’ve gone from being the crazy guy with the End Is Near sign to being just another guy repeating accepted truth. But of course publishers didn’t prepare, they generally doubled down on the old ways. In about five years (give or take) you’ll start seeing big time book publishers going under.

    Now the publishers think they’ll save themselves by obtaining complete ownership of IP (intellectual property) and when I hear that I just laugh. My whole job is creating IP, and since I can deliver it directly to the consumer now, why exactly would I ever give up ownership?

    And as for libraries? How do they imagine they’ll survive? They’ll be the equivalent of that spoof site http://lmgtfy.com (Let Me Google That For You.)

    A publishing apocalypse is coming. But it will probably be good for two groups: creatives and the reading public.

  44. Rod said,

    “Related: ever notice that when something bad happens to you or someone you love — an illness, an accident — it is never, ever what you anticipated? It’s always something out of left field that totally blindsides you?”

    I agree with Amba to the extent it is considered on a personal level. I think about auto safety and the possibility of auto accidents from time to time, but the times I have been involved in an auto accident, I was not worrying about the possibility of an accident moments before it happened. I am certainly aware of the possibility of getting a speeding ticket, but I have never been thinking, “What if there is a cop over that hill” just before getting one. Indeed, when I am thinking about the possibility of a police car around the bend I reduce my speed, making the possibility of a speeding ticket go away.

    Then there are the percentages of people who anticipate things. Prior to 9/11, most of us were not obsessing about the possibility of planes being hijacked for the purpose of crashing them into buildings, much less of such buildings then collapsing as a result. However, I recall reading about the head of security for one of the tenants in the World Trade Center (I can’t recall which) who was hired after the ’93 bombing. He became very concerned about the possibility of someone crashing a plane into the building and insisted that employees in his firm have several disaster drills.

    Some people anticipated the problem – most did not. Some people were worried about an attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but most were caught by surprise. I know an assassin might target the President of the United States, but if it happens again, most of us will have awakened that morning without giving that possibility a thought.

  45. Icepick said,

    I think about auto safety and the possibility of auto accidents from time to time, but the times I have been involved in an auto accident, I was not worrying about the possibility of an accident moments before it happened.

    I actually predicted one of the ten or so I have been involved in. (I was only driving during one of them, BTW, and alcohol has no been involved in any of them.) Trying to talk a friend out of going for a ride with some idiot we knew I actually told him, “J****, if you get in that car, C*** will be in an accident before he gets off this street.” I wasn’t able to persuad my friend to pass, and not wanting to stay in that neighborhood any longer than necessary, I also got in the car. I should have listened to myself. We were in a wreck before we got off that street.

    Advice to self: Take your advice more often!

  46. amba12 said,

    Betwen Rod, Donna and me, maybe we should rename this blog “Speed” . . .

  47. amba12 said,

    Advice to self: Take your advice more often!

    Starting with that one!

  48. Icepick said,

    Betwen Rod, Donna and me, maybe we should rename this blog “Speed” . . .

    You know, it’s like Die Hard on a blog!

  49. Ron said,

    Yippie-Ki-Yay, motherbloggers!

  50. amba12 said,

    But Shiva is also about salvation. If you worship the god of destruction you can obtain salvation.

    That sounds suspiciously fundamentalist to me, if taken literally. If not taken literally, then mystical. But that world-despising strain in religion always seems like its most dangerous aspect. Most of us have to live (at best) both in the world and beyond it. When you set those two against each other you may get Buddha, you may get Ayatollah Khomeini.

  51. Jason (the commenter) said,

    amba: That sounds suspiciously fundamentalist to me, if taken literally. If not taken literally, then mystical.

    It gets worse amba, because many people who worship Vishnu, think Shiva is an aspect of him.

    You can’t hide from creative destruction, even in India.

  52. reader_iam said,

    In thinking it over, it’s interesting to me that at one time people online thought I over explained, over commented, used too many words, went on too much, etc., whatever. In thinking it over, it’s interesting to me that later the meme became I say too little; that I never explain myself, under-participate, obscure rather than elucidate, etc., whatever. So lucky am I, to have a couple-so friends of 30-40 years duration, for example.

  53. amba12 said,

    Did I say all that? Did you hear it as a negative? Did it ever strike you that your followers and blogfriends are hooked on your way of expressing yourself?

  54. reader_iam said,

    I heard it as something to think about–and something, now, to think about more seriously, on account of my not listening more closely when I ought to have done.

  55. amba12 said,

    :(

  56. reader_iam said,

    That gets a frownie?

    ***

    Hands up! Whatever.

  57. amba12 said,

    No, a saddie.

  58. amba12 said,

    A frown would look something like >:{ to me :( is just unhappy. dismayed. downhearted.

    I was not being critical. I’m sad that it struck you that way.

  59. trooper york said,

    Hey I just think you delete yourself too much reader.

  60. Sarah Rolph said,

    I don’t believe for a minute that print is dying. The market is certainly fragmenting. Markets tend to do that over time. Certainly, it is not as easy to do well in a market when competition increases. Life is tough! Get on with it!

    The demise of Gourmet is a direct result of its editorial and publishing team having driven it into the ground. It used to be the only food magazine, then it was one of a very few, with an edge because of its stature. For the past ten years or so it has been one of many. Anyone who was paying attention could see this coming for years. I was a Gourmet subscriber for a very long time, and I watched it get thinner and thinner as Reichl seemed to indulge her own idiosyncratic interests without regard to what it might do to the advertising revenue.

    Survival requires adaptation. If Gourmet had truly wanted to move beyond the traditional business model of ads supporting the editorial it could have done so. Or it could have chosen a smaller niche and truly changed its focus. Instead it chose a deadly combination of resting on its laurels and experimentation. These were poor moves in the face of greatly increased competition in the food and lifestyle segments.

    Martha Stewart Living magazine is doing just fine using the traditional business model–its advertising and editorial support one another very well. That publication is apparently run by people who know how to make good business decisions. Gourmet was not. In fact, they still have not told subscribers what they are planning to do with the rest of our money.

    In the case of Gourmet magazine, it looks like a case of destruction *without* creativity.

  61. amba12 said,

    Hi Sarah!

    Of course you’re right. Creative destruction could also be called the destruction of the insufficiently creative. You do have to adapt to new conditions, and those who are willing and able to do so may well find new ways to survive.

    You will understand if, out of loyalty, tact, and prudence, I do not attempt a public autopsy on a still-living patient. Business creativity is a special kind, and it’s really true that the rest of us are dependent on it — for our jobs, our gadgets, our reading matter, and so much more.

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