AlwaysOn Network published my latest piece entitled: “There Is No Consolidation…Period.” today.
Here it is:
There Is No Consolidation…Period.
Auren Hoffman maintains that from bank services to music, consumers have more choices than ever before.
In October, I published a controversial piece on AlwaysOn proposing that the idea of media consolidation in America is a bunch of baloney.
I started thinking about it more and realized that the media industry is not some anomaly. In fact, there is actually more competition in virtually every industry today than there was thirty years ago.
U.S. consumers and businesses have more choices when buying products than they ever did before. That competition translates into lower prices, better features, and higher quality. Sometimes, it even translates into better customer service.
Let’s take the banking industry, for example. There are those who decry the massive consolidation in the financial services sector. But the facts speak otherwise. Though Bank of America and Wells Fargo have acquired many of the regional banks in San Francisco, many new players (Washington Mutual, Citibank, E-Trade, PayPal, Charles Schwab, et cetera) have entered the market, causing fierce competition. Today consumers have literally thousands of different banks to choose from, with a multitude of ways to access their accounts, specifically via branch, ATM, telephone, mail, or the Internet.
While there ARE fewer banks in the United States than there were 30 years ago, the average consumer has access to more of them, and to the vast array of services these institutions now provide at a fraction of the previous cost.
Another example is the computer industry. Although operating systems are dominated by Microsoft, consumers do have options. Linux is fast becoming the operating system of choice for many users. And, of course, competition in the personal computer market allows consumers to exert a massive influence on hardware manufacturers.
Many industries will go through brief periods of reduced choices for consumers only to be followed by massive ingenuity and demand. This fresh, new perspective on the old industry can lead to more options for consumers. Today, the best example of this is the music industry, which recently has consolidated but is seeing CD prices drop rapidly. And though the industry outwardly says that the pressures are due to Napster-like piracy, most music insiders acknowledge that the lower prices are a response to the booming after-market for used CDs that have become so prevalent on eBay and other online stores.
Some other quick examples:
* Entrepreneurs can now get money from thousands of different venture capital firms, angels, and lending institutions.
* Children, for the first time in centuries, now have cheaper alternatives for education with the advent of charter schools and for-profit institutions like Sylvan Learning Centers.
* Want to buy a home? The Multiple Listing Service and the Internet give you access to more homes than ever before. So even though there are technically fewer real estate brokerage firms, there is nevertheless far more competition.
I tried to think of at least one industry that has really consolidated. Finally, I came upon the manufacturers of long-haul passenger airplanes. Boeing and Airbus dominate the market—especially after Boeing’s acquisition of McDonnell Douglas a few years back. But here too, competition is on the upswing. JetBlue recently ordered 100 jets from Embraer, a Brazillian jet maker; Bombardier Aerospace of Canada just won a lucrative contract with All Nippon Airways; and AVIC-1 of China is selling to Shanghai Airlines and Hainan Airlines.
I expect this trend to continue for another thirty years. We should count on more competition, more consumer choices, more ingenuity, falling prices, and better customer service. Because there is no consolidation…period.