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Digital Transformation – The loss of value

The value of the Music Chain kept rising as the industry got better and better in managing atoms, then quite rapidly as the Digital Transformation took over the value chain value collapsed killing most players in the process and opening the door to new ones. Source: RIAA

In the previous posts I made some unpleasing statements, like the fact that the Digital Transformation is decreasing the overall value of a value chain, by increasing its efficiency and eventually moving the benefits to the end consumer that will be paying a lower price. Obviously, if the price is lower the total revenue will also be lower and so the value generated by that value chain.

Yes I know, you might object that a lower price will lead to an increased market and that may offset the decrease in price per unit.

Yes, you may say that but it is not true (in general, particularly when the Digital Transformation is applied to a mature market). Take the example of the music industry or the one of the newspaper industry, two areas where the Digital Transformation took place (actually is not completed as of 2019 but it is getting closer and closer and worse and worse for the incumbent leveraging on atoms). Their overall value today is lower than the one they had 20 years ago.

Back in 1995 the music market had a value of 21.5B$, in 2015 it was down to 6.9B$ (in these last few years it is slightly increasing but we are well below 10B$ (over 50% of the value chain value has disappeared!).

More than that. By 2017 the old value chain, the one based on atoms (CD, vynil, cassette) generate less than 1B$ in revenues, the rest is generated by the digital part of music and this new part is basically controlled by new players.

Back in 2002 Napster fuelled the Digital Transformation. It was fought by the incumbents that eventually won the battle against Napster and but lost the war to the Digital Transformation.

The growth and fall of advertisement value for newspapers in the US. Notice that in the last years we have seen a growth in the value they generate from their on line (bit) services but that is nowhere near to make up for the lost of value on the atom based value chain. Source: US Department of Labour

The world of Newspapers has been hit hard by the Digital Transformation, with the revenues generated by ads in their printed copies falling from over 65B$ (in the US) to less than 15B$ (in the US). The uptake of digital advertisement is a drop of water in the ocean of losses generating less than 5B$ revenues. Hence the total value of the advertisement on the newspaper value chain went down from the 65B$ to less than 20B$ of today.

This is happening fast in many areas, and it usually follows a pattern of growth followed by a plunge that is the result of the Digital Transformation disruption.

Telecom Incumbent Operators are seeing their revenues shrinking, and it has just begun! Source: IP Carrier

Even areas that in theory should benefit from the Digital Transformation, like the Telecom Operators, given that their networks are carrying more and more bits (absolutely true) because of the ongoing shift from atoms to bits, are feeling the decreasing value of the atoms related value chains (in case of Telecoms they are still tied up with costly infrastructures and heavy labour cost). As the Digital Transformation will progress in their area as well (with flatter infrastructures much more based on sw than hardware, as it will happen once 5G will be in full swing -10 more years probably), we will see a sharper decline of atoms based revenues.

More in the next post.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.