January 11, 2007

"Either Get On The Train, Or Get Out Of The Way"

Those were the words of noted blogger Jeremiah Owyang, a very bright and intelligent individual, when talking about a journalist feeling frustration over the conflict between journalism and blogging. Jeremiah's advice is to "either get on the train, or get out of the way".

In multichannel retailing, a similar phenomenon is occurring to the one Jeremiah references. A generation of employees who developed their skills in the world of catalogs are being phased out by Google and the magic of online retailing. No longer is it necessary to send a 148 page catalog to a customer, when you can simply intercept the customer at her time of need by allowing Google to broker a fair competition between online retailers.

The catalog expert is in a similar situation to the journalist that Jeremiah describes. Over the past decade, her profession was consumed by an economic version of Darwinian evolution. Her skills, once so important, must evolve for her to remain relevant.

If you have the battle scars of an individual who went through the type of economic transition that Jeremiah describes, what did you do to make the transition occur? Did you get on the train, did you get out of the way, or did you allow the train to run you over?

Let's hope that the current generation of online marketers, social media experts, and online strategists are ready to make the same type of transition when the next version of the internet consumes the very industries they currently promote. Since everything is happening faster and faster, the lights on the next train are already approaching.


  1. Anonymous1:08 AM

    Excellent thoughts.

    I'm already preparing for the next train. My "Web Strategy" scope will change to Mobile, IPTV, and the next medium.

    I know that all of these technologies will be disrupted by eTelepathy. (I'm not kidding)

    I will be there.

  2. Anonymous8:00 AM


    I am not sure if catalogs are being phased out or if they are simply evolving. Perhaps they will become less a vehicle for direct response and more a brand-building one. After all, catalogs can drive traffic to web sites, particularly to to sites that are new or out of mainstream.


  3. Jeremiah, good job thinking ahead. You are very talented and bright, I enjoy reading your blog. Let's set up time to talk via eTelephathy in 2015!

    Adelino --- regardless whether catalogs are being phased out or they are evolving, the people who developed their skills in catalog are being phased out.

    Example: I spoke with an executive recruiter this week who wanted to recruit an individual who was currently doing online marketing but understood catalog. The converse, a catalog person who understood online marketing, was not acceptable.

    Example: A long time catalog industry leader told me this week that an EVP told her she didn't know anything about customer behavior, she just knew how to mail catalogs to people.

    Maybe catalog folks just need to be "re-branded". Regardless, there need to be changes, and that is why Jeremiah's comments about the journalist he discussed are relevant to catalogers.


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