Much has been written about the profoundly negative effect that the Internet has had on the newspaper business.
So many readers have switched to the Web for information that sales of the printed papers — and advertising revenue that brings in the money to publish them — have plummeted.
Last year alone, 105 U.S. newspapers went out of business, and 10,000 newspaper jobs were lost. So the Internet has not been a blessing for a lot of newspaper, magazine, and book publishers.
Does the Internet make companies change the way they do business? Not directly, but those that don't become more transparent and accessible will likely be thumped by those that do.
But what about other businesses?
According to the latest study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and researchers at Elon University in North Carolina, the Internet is making a lot of them more efficient and more responsive to their customers.
Janna Anderson, who directs Elon's Imagining the Internet Center, said about 900 top business
Internet users surveyed believe the net will force even the most resistant companies to tune into customer demands if they want to keep up.
Anderson noted that many said there is too much pressure from the public in today's age of collective intelligence and transparency for institutions to be able to continue to cling to 20th-century forms.
The Rocky Mountain News had been published for 150 years before going out of business last year. The Internet, which stole away many of the print edition's readers, helped kill it.
One person surveyed — Dylan Tweney, senior editor of Wired magazine — says that since many executives were trained in the days when companies could get away with being haughty and secretive, change is happening gradually.
But 10 years from now, he says, companies' customers will know far more about the companies than the companies do themselves.
Others are skeptical. Susan Crawford, a former member of President Obama's National Economic Council, told the researchers, no matter how much information is online and available,there will still be some small circle of men [she did specify men] who will be hanging on to all the levers. . .
Has free and easy communication on the Web changed the way companies do business? Consider the open dialogue that auto companies like Toyota have had with their customers when problems occur and recalls are necessary.
They'll give lip service to openness, and they will commit to better customer service.
But they won't actually change their ways.
But Crawford added, ask me again in 2020.