Today, the NY Times reported that TiVo is transforming itself from a consumer electronics company to a media company.  It is makin gthe transition from a company that was once the most despised by advertisers to one that works with them.  The company plans to "provide second-by-second viewership data and demographic ratings information collected from a sample of 20,000 TiVo subscribers."  Of course, this presents a potential challenge for Nielsen, since that company only tracks 3,000 homes with DVRs.

The "what business am I really in?" question–or, rather, "What business does it make sense to be in?"–is one that haunts businesses large and small, established ones as well as startups.  It requires that you look further down the road than you might think you have to.  It also forces you to get some clarity as to what your company’s future will look like.

For example, did Apple plan for the iPhone to be an advertising platform?  Who knows, but with an install base of 1 million people that comprise an attractive demographic, the better question is why not?  How long did it take for retailers to realize that a dollar value should be placed on in-store advertising, signage and other POP materials?  Back in 2002, I’d suggested to Burger King that they use a similar calculation to bring down the cost of a sponsorship based on the amount of store traffic that would view posters of a tour the company was sponsoring.  The awareness was valuable to the tour, not just BK’s participation therein.

At the end of 2007, certainly none of this is new.  However, what it reminds us is that you absolutely must adapt to the changing business and cultural landscape.  That means not undervaluing the resources that are currently at your disposal.  After all, if you’ve built your business beyond the startup phase, then there’s something there that would be potentially valuable to partners.  The goal is continued relevance for your product or service.

Posted by Rob Fields