Surviving an Industry in Decline ...... Part 1: The Recognition

Regardless of industry, it's important to understand and embrace that you individually have little or no impact on the current decline nor can you reverse trends. That doesn't mean you are helpless. In fact, you are in total control of your career and where you are headed. Actually, it's a huge bonus because you can see it coming, especially if you are in the TV Broadcast News, Retail, Higher Education or even Construction.

First it's necessary to understand whether the decline in your industry is cyclical in nature or a permanent trend. For example, cyclical industries include auto, housing (construction and real estate), airlines and travel. Usually there is an external force that causes contraction but it eventually rebounds. External forces like rising fuel prices or mortgage rates. There will be shifts; single family homes to apartment, F150 trucks to hybrids, taxi's to Ubers. Demand moves and rebounds, maybe not to peaks but there are rebounds. There are some more permanent trends however that are warning signs.

Think back 10-15 years ago and how digital images and storage trends decimated the photographic film industry. It's not dead but its a fraction of what it used to be. Advances in digital technology and storage completely changed the landscape and there is no going back.

Brick and mortar retail is still in the midst of contraction that looks to be permanent in nature. Buying habits have changed significantly and fulfillment comes in the way of a UPS truck or a Uber instead of a traditional storefront. The experiential thrill of shopping the utilized our five senses has been replaced with the instant satisfaction of clicking a button. Not only does this impact retail sales outlets but also has a significant negative impact on commercial construction industries. A shift from storefronts to million square foot distribution centers.

Higher Education is an interesting case study. There are simply less 18 year old's today than there were 5 years ago. Population trends at the moment do not favor higher attendance in the foreseeable future. After years of sustained higher water marks of Baby Boomer's birth rates in the fifties and sixties, there has been a flattening of the birth rate. The spikes and peaks aren't as high. It's like a pig moving through a python. Couple the declining demo with the changes in technology and remote educational opportunities and the college and university landscape may never be the same.

If you look specifically at broadcast television and the news business, the data is overwhelming and illustrates a declining market. Technology and viewer preference is making the 'push' model obsolete. There is now the ability to create your own channel for any genre of content you wish, when you want it. I find it shocking that some multimedia companies still aren't streaming content live and others don't offer content on demand. That's literally telling your audience that if your not sitting in your living room in front of your television you can't see our content.

Now take a look at last years TV News data from Pew Research:

Quick takeaways are:

  • Aging audience and in some cases less educated and less affluent.

  • Television is declining faster than online is growing.

  • Local TV makes up largest audience.

You might deduct that technology, streaming digital content on mobile devices, is changing TV broadcast news business permanently. Clearly the distribution of content is changing but there are also changes in the demand dependent upon the source. Cable and Network TV news numbers among Millennials is abysmal. The question is what happens to viewership patterns as the Millennial generation ages. Do they shift to more traditional viewership patterns?

Overall consumption of content via the television is definitely trending down for a number of reasons (we all have our own thoughts on topic). The focus of this article isn't a debate of industries in decline. It's about recognition that there trends resulting in negative demand, industry contraction and literally, a channel shift. It's important to not get caught up in logic that results in you just kicking the can down the road.

For example, I had to chuckle when I saw this last week ....

"....even if Pyeongchang won’t reach nearly as many American homes as some past big Winter Games, NBC is rightly pointing out that the 2018 Olympics are doing incredible numbers relative to everything else on TV. Put another way: The NBC-only prime-time numbers may be down, but they’re down a lot less than programming on rival networks."

In other words "we sucked less than everyone else". What's important to acknowledge in this is the trend, not the competition. If the whole industry is in decline, all traditional outlets end up impacted and that should be driving your career strategy. Again, there is a channel shift and you need to be shifting with it.

Your homework in this exercise (all my clients have homework!) is to take a hard look at what is happening in your industry. What are the trends? How do they impact what I do directly? Where is demand shifting? Where are the unmet needs going? Next week, Part 2 of this article will focus on the impact to you individually and some thoughts about two courses of action:

  1. Adapt in an effort to survive and thrive.

  2. Transition and prepared for change.

In the meantime .... Be Bold. Be Great. Be Timeless!

About Mike McNamara:

Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.

Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services to the underprivileged and underserved. Today as founder and CEO of TalentBlvd, he coaches a number of high profile business and media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.

Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House – St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.

Photo credits: Thome Review, PEW Research, Variety, USA Today, Sporting News

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