There’s a chill in the air…
Back in dark, drizzly Ireland after a week in dark, drizzly Denmark, where I had many dark, drizzly conversations with media types from around Europe about the future of newspapers. It’s not bright, apparently.
One speaker talked about the ice-cutting industry in 19th century America. Back then, ice-cutting was big business. Thousands of mutton-whiskered men worked at cutting blocks of ice from wintry shorelines, and shipping those blocks in container ships to the UK and the West Indies, where ice was a highly prized luxury.
Then, someone invented the ice factory. Now ice could be made in London or anywhere else. But it was a complicated process, involving dangerous chemicals. The ice-cutters reckoned they could stay in the game by wrapping their ice better and building bigger ships. They had the market share and the business relationships to beat these upstarts, didn’t they?
10 years later, they were gone.
Flash forward another few decades, and the rich and happy ice factory owners heard about the invention of something called the ‘refrigerator’, which would allow anyone make their own ice. No problem, reasoned the factory owners. We have the proven technology, the established network for delivering ice around the country. We know our customers, we’ll just make our ice delivery service even better.
Well, you know the rest…
The question troubling my European confreres last week was: ‘are we the ice-cutters or the ice factories? And how the hell do we get into the fridge business?’