The beauty of local control

A Business Week article caught my attention, because it speaks so well to an ongoing issue that I encounter with media companies. The issue is whether it makes more sense to run digital operations from a centralized unit or to give freedom to individual properties to do their own thing.

Each has its merits, but I’ve always come down more on the side of local control. That’s because I think all of the flexibility for making money exists there and that nobody knows a market like the people who work therein.

The Business Week article looks at new strategic moves by Best Buy that the company believes will better equip it stores to handle the current economic uncertainty. At the crux of the decision is moving control of many things previously dictated by the corporate offices to the hands of the people running the stores. This has had a rather significant impact on business.

Lately, however, the employees at this store (Baytown, Tex) have noticed a different stripe of shopper: Eastern European workers from cargo ships or oil tankers, temporarily docked at Baytown’s busy port, are spending their precious shore hours scouring the store’s aisles. They take a 15-minute cab or shuttle ride to stock up on iPods and Apple laptops priced cheaper than back home. To speed their shopping, the Baytown Best Buy has moved the iPods from the back corner of the store to the front, paired them with overseas power converters, and simplified the signage. Since the changes were made over the holidays, cash register receipts for the boat workers have ballooned by 67%.

This moving around of stock would not have happened in a paradigm of top-down control. As a result, Best Buy’s “centricity” strategy is producing projections of healthy revenue growth at a time when the price of gas is soaring.

This is a fascinating look at a company that is trying to shift control over certain things to the local level, and it’s exactly what media companies need to be doing as well. Any corporate media strategy that forces, for example, a certain kind of niche vertical on all of its properties without regard for their local relevancy is sacrificing localized niche revenue opportunities in the name of uniformity. That kind of thinking may have worked at one time, but today, its value is certainly open to debate.

Let’s give control of how we make money online to the people in the best position to know where the money is and how to go about getting it.


  1. i’ll make a comment after reading only the headline…

    act locally. think globally. who says that all the time?

    anyways, now i can read your post!


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