GOING PRIVATE

Barnes & Noble Nearing Deal to Be Acquired by Elliott Management – The Wall Street Journal

Barnes & Noble is set to go private. The interesting part will be the change in strategy that Elliot Management may implement. The largest physical book retailer in the United States faced many years of decline, despite catering to the tech needs with the Nook devices and app.

The perpetual growth and expanse of technology severely impacted the viability of making bookstore chains and libraries. While some people enjoy the feel and smell of an actual book, others gladly trade away the experience for the convenience associated with digital books, possessing numerous books on a single device. Moreover, the availability of programs that read the book aloud is something hard to pass up.

Some libraries countered the trend by adapting their services and space utilization to better serve their communities. Many provide classes, worker assistance, tax services, and other services  beyond book and video rental. In addition, many provide convenient spots for people to study or work in quiet and semi-comfortable environments.

A path forward for Barnes & Noble may include some similar elements. One may suggest adopting an internet cafe model to some degree, reducing inventory cost by trading bookshelves for tables and chairs. Additionally, it might want to provide access to certain content exclusive to the in-store experience or subscriber network. Balancing the dwindling market for physical books with the desire for convenient spaces to work or surf the web may be appealing and profitable.

Barnes & Noble has partnerships with some colleges for supplying books and operating the related stores. Also, it has partnerships with Starbucks for on-site cafes, which could help expand the internet cafe idea. Barnes & Noble has many opportunities to avoid the fate of Borders and others if it makes strategic choices.

The public will wait and see.

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THAT WAS QUICK

Source – AAF to immediately suspend operations (ESPN)

Although not official, many sports news agencies are reporting that the AAF will suspend operations and move towards folding short of completing their inaugural season. The spring football league some hoped would serve as a talent farm for the NFL, where the fringe players could harness their skills. Unfortunately, the league is struggling financially.

Football is king in the American sports world, but it needs to fit into a convenient block of the calendar year. After the Super Bowl, sports fans continue to watch potential free agent news while shifting to other sports. One has to question whether competing with the NCAA tournament was the best approach. Combine the interest in the NBA playoff run and Opening Day in MLB, there might not be a convenient window for another football league.

Given the potential quick hook for the AAF, one must question whether resurrecting the XFL makes any sense. The financial situation for the XFL is much different.

SEARS CUSTOMERS

How Sears Lost the American Shopper – The Wall Street Journal.

The above article is a great read on how an iconic American company lost it’s way.

Sears made many mistakes along the way. The lack of concern about the rise of Walmart, Best Buy, and Home Depot. The merger with a bankrupt KMart. The clear lack of concern for store maintenance and appearance. The biggest one was not really knowing its customers and prospective customers.

From the above article,Sears did a lot of things first that are now staples of retail. But, their customer base was not one that sought those conveniences. A clear lack of connection was Sears believing its customers would drive 25 miles to purchase an appliance if they had any other option.

Like many mature companies, Sears leadership valued returns more so than customer growth. Profitability in the near term placed greater importance than profitability in the long term. Sears needed to connect with new audiences to augment its base.

Sears was a great retailer that stood by its products. Sears was a fixture in the homes of many generations. The shame is many future generations may not experience the unique experience of shopping at a Sears.

INDUSTRY STANDARDS

The Problem for Small-Town Banks: People Want High-Tech Services

Small and medium businesses, especially new operations, have the challenge of matching service standards in competing for customers against industry leaders. Industry leaders benefit from brand awareness of not only their name, but their product lines. New players must generate both.

In many industries, there are minimal performance expectations that producers must meet to qualify as a viable option for consumers. In the above article, community banks struggle to meet the convenience standards big banks established in the minds of consumers. Online banking capabilities makes people less likely to go into a branch.

Community banks need to find strategies to provide similar convenience if they want to avoid bank runs.

FACEBOOK

Facebook’s Timeline: 15 Years In – The Wall Street Journal.

Mark Zuckerberg did not invent social media when he founded Facebook, but he certainly changed its trajectory. During its inception, MySpace was the king of the social media hill. Ever since, Facebook now sits atop the social media world and MySpace is no longer a relevant name in the market.

As Facebook alludes to in their marketing campaigns, the social media brought the world closer together. The ability to maintain connections with friends, acquaintances, or relatives improved. Geographic distance or varying time zones no longer served as barriers to remain up to date with those in one’s inner circle. Facebook allowed people to grow their network and identify the six degrees of separation between them and others they come across. Facebook allowed people to communicate more efficiently with a single message instantly reaching multitudes of people.

Facebook not only changes our individual behaviors, but it also sparked changes in how companies market products and engage with consumer markets. User behaviors provide great insight on how brands can construct product offerings and marketing campaigns. Instead of costly television adds, many brands are able to connect with core members of their target markets with social media campaigns. Facebook also greatly impacts our social conscience and political system, as it is a common place for people to display political views or voice opinions. 

Like anything that becomes globally popular, there will be some downsides brought to light by inappropriate uses of the product or service. Some people with low moral standards utilize the anonymity of social media to harass, stalk, or bully others. Others used social media to circulate purposefully untruthful content to mislead the public. People evolve over time to understand the need for balance with social media, weighing the level of engagement and separation as well as how to evaluate circulated material.

As it celebrates its 15 years in existence, Facebook should be celebrated for its overall positive impact on society. Whether one simply scrolls to kill time, posts messages to friends and family, or peruses for various products or content, Facebook will continue to serve its over 2.2 billion daily users.

FREE MARKETS AND SPORTS

The broken winter: Why baseball must fix free agency ASAP(ESPN)

The anxiety for the fans waiting for free agent decisions is understandably high. But that does not mean market economics failed.

As mentioned in the article, baseball executives are learning from past spending mistakes. Utilizing data and information to make the best informed decision possible. To decide whether to bid or pass on assets. Doing so requires change in offer structures and more time for both sides to analyze contract value.

Market economics at its core reflect the true price a buyer is willing to pay for a product or service and the price the seller is willing to accept. Market economics at its best occurs when both buyer and seller are highly informed about the total value and impact of transactions. Baseball executives are now becoming more informed buyers and more efficient spenders.

Most unionized structures are the exact opposite of free markets. Many deny the individual of the opportunity to maximize value attainment. What is perceptually good for the gander may harm individual geese.

Baseball fans need to be patient. Teams are being more analytical in decision making and players are demonstrating greater patience to maximize value. Monster contracts of the past harmed both teams operation and the reputation of players not living up to fan expectations. Now, the market is correcting itself.

DIVERSITY AND PERFORMANCE

Future of black NFL coaches a concern after round of firings (ESPN)

The NFL should ensure that the limited opportunities to lead and shape the football activities of its franchises are available to all those who have the qualifications and resume. The recent firings of certain NFL coaches reduces the number of minority to coaches to 3, which is not statistically aligned to the percentage of minorities that make up the players that play for them. 

The most qualified person should get any job, whether it is leading an NFL team, a business, or an organization. But, the process where decision makers source candidates may not be inclusive for all those with the resume and experience needed for the job. Ideally, decision makers would build a diverse enough pool of candidates for consideration to ensure they truly found the right candidate. 

From an outside perspective, many NFL teams appear to identify a select few of head coaching candidates and focus efforts to land the top ranked candidate. For instance, the Miami Dolphins went all in on bringing in Adam Gase, a candidate many across the league had on their short list. A mere three years later he is once again available. In reality, the only coach still employed in the class is Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who was the least heralded hire and only Super Bowl winning coach.

For the four coaches listed in the ESPN article, there should not be any surprise with the teams’ decisions. The coaches clearly under-performed and did not produce the desired results. There really is not a strong argument for continuing the relationships when Super Bowl victories are not in the forecast. While the results are not completely up to the coaching staff, the head coach is the one burdened with responsibility of the outcomes. The job security risk comes with the job description. 

The focus needs to be on identifying effective ways for NFL teams to diversify their candidate pools so that minority candidates have fair access to elite positions. There is difficulty in forcing organizations to not zero in on a single candidate, but more likely than not, that person will not be the right one. The NFL needs to find ways to prevent teams from giving token interviews in favor of substantive evaluations of candidates record and potential. 

The best people should get the jobs. The process needs to ensure organizations are able to see the best candidates. 

TRANSPARENCY AND HEALTHCARE

Hospitals must post ‘chargemaster’ prices online. How useful will that be?

The posting will only be useful if the price schedules reflect realistic prices, not list pricing that no one actually pays. If policymakers want to protect competitiveness of hospitals, price schedules could reflect prior year actual pricing. 

Without realistic pricing, the policy is a hollow effort to improve affordability in care 


DIVERGENT STRATEGIES

AT&T and Verizon Pursue Different Paths Into the Future (WSJ) https://www.wsj.com/articles/at-t-and-verizon-pursue-different-paths-into-the-future-1541999131

One is focusing on acquiring content, while the other seeks to acquire new customer groups. Reminiscent of Coke vs Pepsi, where Coke focuses on being a leader in beverages, while Pepsi aims to diversify in food and beverage.

ATT aims to attract individual consumers, which are content driven and value entertainment. By owning content providers, ATT will not only expand revenue streams, but can create exclusive customer experiences for ATT wireless consumers.

On the other hand, Verizon strives to invest in technology and expanding its industry consumer base, which is more stable than personal consumers. Industry consumers prefer service contracts, which provide cost stability and detailed service guarantees. This could provide Verizon stable revenue streams over longer periods.

ATT will have to manage divergent business unit and balance varying goals and industry norms. Conversely, Verizon will be able to focus on its core competency and strengthen consumer quality in multiple segments.

Both have viable paths forward. Interesting to see how smaller competitors adjust.

RED SOX WIN

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After not winning a title for 86 years, the Boston Red Sox captured its 4th World Series championship since 2004. The 2018 Red Sox team was a force to be reckon with since game 1 of 162. A team with a dangerous lineup, ferocious pitching staff, and reliable defense that won more games than any Boston team in the past.

The Dodgers played an interesting World Series. Understandably, Dave Roberts would put together a lineup that counters the strong pool of lefthanded pitchers the Red Sox have, but at some point you have to let the players that got you to the World Series play through the challenge. Some of the strongest bats remained on the bench until a righthanded pitcher came in. Although, David Freese did come up with some clutch hits and provided the only offense of game 5 for the Dodgers.

The Red Sox were the better team coming into and out of the series. Now, the Red Sox focus on repeating and the Dodgers must find a way to capture that elusive prize. Two pennants and twice the runner up. If Kershaw departs, their challenge is much greater.

SUMMARY

RED SOX 4 DODGERS 1

MVP: STEVE PEARCE (3HR 8 RBI)