The Challenge of Platform Change


In the last year of its existence, the National Association of Silent Movie Accompanists took several steps in response to the opening of "The Jazz Singer," the first talking movie.

The group agreed to survey audiences to determine what music movie-goers preferred. A training program was established to ensure younger musicians met basic standards. And it substantially increased its marketing budget.

And it didn't matter.

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I have no idea if any such trade association ever existed. But it's easy to imagine that this scenario could have happened as silent movies gave way to talkies. It is easy to document that as gas lights gave way to electric lights that suppliers sharply cut prices, and that some went into the electric light business successfully. The latter happened in my home of Madison, Ind., in the 1890s.

Markets change in a way that what went before becomes obsolete in a way that there is no way to save the previous system. When I was in college, there was a student at Indiana University who developed a following renting the university's major auditorium and performing silent movie accompaniment on an organ, selling out every time because of his extraordinary musical skills. But that was a novelty item.

Business categories grow and die. The milkman, who delivered milk to homes, is a memory (as is the milkman who picked it up at our farm), and it's doubtful many younger people understand the need that created this occupation. PhotoMats came and went quickly and who could imagine sending film away to another location and waiting for prints to be returned days later? Film? Remember Polaroid? That kind of radical change happened in the shift from service bureau tax preparation processing to desktop processing. It's happening in the changeover to Web-based computing and information distribution.

In technology, there's a side effect I call catastrophic pricing collapse. When I did a 10th anniversary special in 1990 for a technology trade publication, I was amazed to learn that in 1980, a laser printer cost $500,000. Even in 1990, prices for those devices had already collapsed algorithmically.

It's happening now as print publications of all kinds shrink, with many disappearing as information consumers (readers is an inadequate word) have shifted rapidly to the Internet and advertising dollars have gone with them, or disappeared into other forms of marketing and promotion.

Bookstores fold. In New York City, Joseph Patelson Music House, which has served musicians for years with its location opposite the Carnegie Hall Artists' Entrance, is closing because its customers now prefer to order online.

So it is that the 25th Anniversary issue of Accounting Technology is also its last issue, also true for our sister publication, Practical Accountant. We urge all our loyal readers to become readers of Accounting Today, which is expanding its technology coverage.

And so it goes.

25 and Out

This is the last issue of Accounting Technology.

Starting next month, all Accounting Technology subscribers will begin receiving our flagship publication, Accounting Today.

It will feature a beefed-up technology section, including feature stories, product reviews and columns, as well as an expanded practice resources section.

As a result, we are seeking reader feedback as to what you want to keep, add, alter and eliminate.

This is a work in progress, so your opinions will help shape the next quarter-century of coverage.

The July 20 issue of Accounting Today will feature document management basics, how to get started managing files electronically even if you're not ready to invest in a full-blown system, and a practice management product review.

Please send suggestions to Senior Editor Alexandra DeFelice:

(c) 2009 Accounting Technology and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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