The power of old news

The October 29, 1997, issue of Fortune magazine sits on my home office bookshelf.  It has survived eight moves.  The cover of the magazine reads “Wall Street’s Wild Decade,” a title that seems to apply every decade.  As I began leafing through the pages, I marveled at what I saw.

Ads for the Palm Pilot and Compaq computers (remember these?).  An article about the debut of Internet Explorer 4.0, which “may persuade you to switch from Netscape.”  (For Millennials reading this, Netscape was the original web browser for a desktop computer.)

Here are a few other articles that grabbed my attention:

  • Why the Bookstore Wars are Good” – The battle between Barnes & Noble and Borders. How these superstores are killing off the corner bookstore.  Why this might be a positive (cheaper prices, more access, a place to meet your future spouse). No mention of a new public company by the name of Amazon.com. The hunters became the hunted.
  • Is the Cassette Doomed?” – Cassette tapes continue losing market share as CDs gain popularity. The article ends with, “Stick that in your Walkman.”  Four years later, Steve Jobs would put 1,000 songs in your pocket.
  • World’s Most Admired Companies” – Apple clocked in at #12…not in the world, but #12 in Computers, Office Equipment/Data Services.  Right behind Xerox, Canon, Fujitsu, Ricoh, and Digital Equipment.  Coca-Cola was the #1 most admired company in the U.S. in 1997.  They rank #16 in 2017. Apple is now #1…in the world.

So what’s the point?  The last 20 years have flown by.  I was eight months from graduating college and taking a job with P&A when Fortune published this issue.  It seems like yesterday.  And isn’t it amazing how technology has changed our lives?  Twenty years ago the following didn’t exist: smartphones, Alexa, high-speed internet, Netflix, and apps.  What do we take for granted today that won’t be around in 2037?

The same day Fortune ran this issue, the Dow Industrials suffered its largest one-day point drop in history (up to that point).  The Dow tumbled 554 points, or 7.2%, and finished the day at 7,161.  How many of you remember that day?  At the time, it was huge news.  But in hindsight, it looks like a speed bump.  (The very next day, the Dow set a new record…with a gain of 337 points!)

Over the weekend, a client shared an article entitled, “How to Read Financial News.” The author is an office favorite.  He provides great perspective, including the power of old news.  I recommend investing the five minutes to read it.

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