• Alumni

Activity Feed

VR is certainly a very hot topic today, with old and new media companies alike touting their VR initiatives, acquisitions, etc. That being said, we are a very long ways off from VR being a widely consumed product. Hardware is too expensive today and the technology still too new for VR to be a meaningful avenue of growth, at least for some time. What’s interesting is that Blizzard actually seems to have weathered the digital storm quite well. Rather than pouring resources into expensive and potentially distracting new products like VR, the company should continue to expand its current digital offerings and worlds, focusing on developing the next big game that can tie into its already large digital network.

On November 20, 2016, SLA commented on GameStop – A casualty of digitialization? :

I agree with the post that the road ahead for GameStop is tough and does not look bright. That being said, the article does not mention a valuable asset that the company does have – its brand. For gamers, GameStop is often synonymous as the destination to purchase games, even if that is less true today than it was ten years ago. With that in mind, is a possible solution to extend the GameStop destination and brand to online? The post mentions how XBOX and Sony have virtual game stores, but can GameStop do the same thing? By extending across game makers, it has the advantage of being a one stop shop for gamers, something that its brand already signals. While it will likely require new revenue sharing schemes for the game makers to agree, I do think that this could be a possible solution as it looks to take advantage of the digital trend in the gaming industry.

I think this post leaves out a key component of the potential success of a business like Narrative Science. That component is consumer demand for AI-generated news (or other content). Trust, especially in the news world, is a major hurdle that is not easily earned. With the rise of Fake News on sites like Facebook, and all the negative attention paid to it since the election, I am skeptical that a company like this can easily earn the trust of readers. Second, we mostly consume news today with a subjective slant or wanting to hear the opinion of the author of the article. Whether its cable news or a prominent columnist, more and more, readers are hoping to get the opinion of someone, not straight objective news. While I see potential limited application for aggregators like the AP, I do not see widespread adoption by major papers. With the business struggling (as the article mentions), papers will more rely on the differentiating aspect of its journalists and their voices. This business eliminates that, which is why I do not see it as compelling service in the long run.

On November 20, 2016, SLA commented on Is Barnes & Noble in the Border(s)line? :

I also agree that B&N has a competitive advantage in its brick and mortar outlets. It will likely never be able to fully compete with Amazon and Apple in the digital space, so it needs to turn to its differentiator – its physical stores. For me, I think B&N should take a page out of Starbucks’s playbook and transform into a third home destination. By adding services like coffee shops, reading nooks, and other lifestyle products, the store can encourage consumers to stay for long periods of time. And, something that people can do in a comfortable place for a long time is read. In this sense, the store can encourage customers to buy the very thing that B&N wants them to – books.

This post does a very good job of laying out the business and operating challenges the NY Times faces from digital disruption. When thinking of how it can stem revenue losses and continue to grow, I think the post misses a key potential solution – selling its content elsewhere. The NY Times needs to further leverage its best asset – its content. One of the ways it can do this is to sell or license its content to third parties, much like Conde Nast and Hearst do. By doing this, the NY Times can open itself to a new revenue stream that still maintains its great content and brand.

On November 6, 2016, SLA commented on Let Them Eat Lobster! :

While Luke’s Lobster’s current sustainability initiatives are noble, they do not do anything to combat the main issue raised in the post – rising ocean temperatures. Understanding Luke’s is a small player and that this is a much larger solution, it is surprising to see that they have done little to raise awareness of an issue that threatens to literally kill its business. It seems like Luke’s should try to start educational and PR campaigns around rising ocean temperatures, helping to bring it more top of mind to its consumer base.

On November 6, 2016, SLA commented on Swept Away: Municipalities drowning in the flood :

I was impressed in how this laid out opportunities given the restraints local governments face due to funding shortages. We all remember the images coming out of New Orleans after Katrina and more recently in Texas and want to believe there are preventative solutions. This post laid out two very strong solutions, with adapting technology on top of existing infrastructure and encouraging businesses to help. When thinking of maximum impact, I wonder if the latter is the best path forward? The private sector more and more has become the responsible party in fighting climate change and encouraging them to take part at the local level is something that the media has not really focused on. The initiative in DC seems like a great example of what other cities should be doing.

On November 6, 2016, SLA commented on Sustainable Toilets: A Pleasant Solution to a Foul Problem :

While an interesting solution, this toilet prototype seems like a long-shot to widespread adoption. The post lays out very nicely the challenges that lay ahead for the adoption of this product, but the hurdle seems to be even larger than what the post suggests. Starting with the developed parts of the world, the costs associated with changing both consumer behavior/demand and actually replacing existing units feel massive. In addition, there is the challenge of scaling a not for profit product into a legitimate business, all the while maintaining the original mission of saving water around the world. For the developing world, it seems like a stretch that they would leapfrog the current products available to the market and choose something so new. More than partnering with a government organization, it seems like RTI really needs a major corporation to get behind this and sell it for them. Without the typical consumer marketing efforts, I don’t see a path forward for widespread adoption.

It’s interesting to think that Unilever, a company with such scale and influence, has made such little effort to meet its own internal goals around palm oil. When announcing these types of initiatives, most corporations understand the negative PR that comes from not meeting them, or at least getting very close. Unilever fell short by 90%, and then decided to try to make up for it with the purchase of certificates. Like the author puts forth, this seems lazy. If Unilever was very serious about the issue, they would look to vertically integrate and buy plants themselves. However, it is clear that this is not cost effective and that they will continue to purchase from companies who don’t see climate change as a priority. I agree that the first step would be to seriously threaten to, or actually cut ties with suppliers that don’t meet the appropriate standards. Unilever can use its size as leverage.

On November 6, 2016, SLA commented on Maker’s Mark: Seeing the Forest for the Trees :

The issues related to climate change and distillation were all very straight forward and known by me, until I got to the point around white oaks being used for the barrels. It’s easy to forget this part of the storage and maturation process. While reading, I fully expected Makers Mark to do little in this area, but was impressed by their decision to vertically integrate and buy forest land. Given the capital expenditures of this process, I find it to be an impressive move and commitment by Makers Mark to do this. If demand increases, I see no reason why they wouldn’t purchase more forest land. Overall, they seem very committed to being a green and sustainable company.