John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Disrupt

Posted on August 6, 2013
disrupt

My friend Karen Finney asked me to do her new television show, Disrupt, over the weekend, but we had weekend plans that would have been disrupted, and I couldn’t make it.

I want to do the show, though, and will plan to do it some other weekend.

Karen is a liberal and I am a conservative, so we look at the world of disruption from different perspectives.

There is a lot of disruption in the economy today.

Think of the Washington Post.

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Shares of Washington Post stock used to be a thousand dollars.   Warren Buffett thought that the venerable newspaper was such a good bet that he sat on its board.

The Grahams just sold the whole enterprise for a quarter of a billion dollars.  That ain’t much money in the big scheme of things.  Mr. Buffett could have bought the paper with his tax return.

But the newspaper business isn’t what it used to be.  For 7 straight years, the Post has been losing money.  They pay more money for reporters than they get in from revenue.

I still subscribe to the Post, but I don’t know why, when I can get it for free from the Internet, but I do.

The newspaper business is going the way of the horse and buggy.

There is a more efficient way to get the news and inevitably, that is how consumers will get the news.

Content is still king, but the delivery method has sped up, making the middlemen (like the paper boys, the truck drivers, the printing press operators, the newsprint makers) expendable.

Those are good paying jobs, and they are going to go the way of the dodo bird.  That disruption, but it is also progress.

The marketplace loves disruption, because with disruption comes opportunity to make a lot of money.

The Washington Post has been riding on the profits of its Kaplan properties for at least a decade.

Kaplan and for-profit colleges are leading the way to another kind of disruption, the university system.

Colleges are expensive, some would say needlessly expensive.   And the Kaplan school model, while imperfect and significantly flawed, has pointed to the future of education.

Instead of sending kids away, more and more parents are going to have their kids learn via the Internet.  Many top-notch universities are already offering courses on-line.   That trend is going to continue.

People want knowledge, but they don’t want the huge debt that comes from going to college.  And the Internet provides them the pathway to that knowledge.

All of this require electricity.  And as it happens, the electricity market is also primed for disruption.

In California and other states have heavily incentivized renewable electric generation is such a way that many consumers are producing their own energy for their own homes.  They do this with solar panels and some day, they might do it with wind.

That could prove very disruptive for the big utilities, who want all of their customers for themselves.  But should it continue, it could prove to be great for the environment.

Disruption has already proved to skew the video market place.

Consumers want to see the content they want to see when they want to see it, on whatever device they currently have within the reach of their arms.

That’s probably not very good for movie theater owners, but it is great for those who produce content.  There are more actors, script writers and directors working then ever before, because content is king and they make the content.

Change is disruptive and it can be scary.  But it can also provide great opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Karen has been focusing her show on disrupting the political process.

Bringing the governing process into the modern age has proven to be a tough nut to crack.   Washington clings to power like an aging utility.

But eventually, power will disperse and the political process will open up, giving consumers (and voters) what they wan:  More control over their own lives, more efficient delivery of government services, and smarter spending of the taxpayer’s dollars.