Competing in the Age of Ecosystems

I recently partnered with colleagues Bill Quinn, Kevin Mulcahy, and Rose Castellon-Rodriguez on an article for TCS Perspectives. You can Download the Article or view it Here.


It has always been a best practice for industry leaders to keep a close eye on their direct competitors, and, more recently, a sharper eye on emerging digital upstarts. Recent business history is full of tales of incumbents losing market share (and, sometimes, their whole business) to more digitally savvy and agile competitors. Combinatorial EcosystemsOnline subscription music services like Spotify (which launched just over 10 years ago) now account for 75% of U.S. music industry revenue, turning the recording industry on its head. And there are now more subscribers to video streaming services worldwide (613 million) than subscribers to cable and satellite TV (with cord-cutting costing the cable companies 1.2 million subscribers in the third quarter of 2018 alone), according to the Motion Picture Association of America. It used to make good business sense for industry captains to stay alert to risks and work hard to secure their industry positions.

Today, however, your competition often does not emerge from within your sector. Google, Facebook, and Amazon, for example, were not thought of as advertising companies when they started. However, as the traditional ad spend shifted inexorably from print to digital, Google and Facebook today dominate advertising, killing off many media incumbents in the process. Amazon now has nearly 7% of the U.S. digital ad market (and it’s rapidly growing that share), while Google and Facebook control 60%.


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