Every Business Is a Tech Business

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The coming death of the printed Newsweek, reported by CNN (it was long ago supplanted by The Daily Beast, CNN noted) is a great reason to repeat the key business truth of our time.

Every business today is a technology business.

The doughnut shop around the corner from me benefitted from Kickstarter, Yelp ( YELP) and Facebook ( FB). The restaurant down the block credits Living Social and Foursquare with its success.

Every kind of business is an information business, subject to being transformed without notice. This is why your local newspaper is in such trouble, with BIA Kelsey seeing continued revenue declines through 2016. Online efforts can't make up for print advertising losses, if you don't understand that technology evolution is continuous.

To see how fast things change, consider politics.

In 1996, we had the first political Web sites, and in 2000, I wrote about how Bush lawyer Ben Ginsburg stopped Sen. Bill Bradley's (D-NJ) momentum by claiming that "webrings" were campaign contributions. (Remember webrings? Exactly.)

The year 2004 was the year of the blog, making Howard Dean (briefly) a household name. In 2008, the Obama campaign scaled that intimacy with an online platform that mimicked the cloud before the buzzword even existed. And 2012 is the "social media campaign," with Twitter putting everyone in the spin room.

How fast do things move? After the health care decision by the Supreme Court, someone photoshopped Obama's head on a picture of Harry Truman, changing the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline in the Chicago Tribune into CNN's wrong headline, "Mandate Struck Down," on an iPad. ( Here it is at imgur.com.)

The iPad was introduced in 2009.

What have newspapers given us in all that time? Mostly paywalls. Some even allow comments, on a few stories, to registered users. (Plus they're still writing stories. Most have yet to figure out that stories evolve in real-time, and that what people read has to evolve in real-time as well.)

The point is that you have to keep up with technology, in everything you do, in every area of business, because your competitors will. I now get my neighborhood news from a blog called DecaturMetro, and for local retailing I depend on one called Tomorrow's News Today. Will either be around four years from now? Only if they evolve.

The talking heads on my TV haven't changed, but now they all work for Web sites. Jonathan Heller says even Gannett ( GCI) is getting with it, as it has been buying tech companies.

Back in the 1990s, a magazine called Netguide sold me to the public as an "e-commerce" reporter. They had some photos taken of me in a suit, fanning out a hand full of dollar bills. But I had just one insight to offer the world, that within a few years you'd take the "e" off e-commerce, that it would just become commerce. (Sometimes this squirrel finds a nut.)

The point should be obvious, for business and investments alike. Every company's technology strategy is vital to its business success, or failure. Keeping up with the changing online landscape is life or death to all businesses. If the companies you invest in aren't ready to change their strategies in Internet Time, you don't want your money in them.

It would be like investing in newspapers for growth.

At the time of publication, the author was long MSFT, AAPL and GOOG

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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