My Gartner Symposium Experience: Gus Balbontin

 

Gus Balbontin is the former CTO of Lonely Planet, the travel book publisher that was a global leader in travel content before it was disrupted by newer, more agile, and more digital competitors like TripAdvisor.

Gus delivered my favorite keynote of the week at Gartner Symposium, full of simple but profound insights like this one.

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Media companies were the first to get disrupted by the Internet, and there was more than a little nervous laughter in the room when Gus said this.

Sometimes it’s easy to think we’ve weathered the storm now, that our industry will be immune to what’s happened in media (newspapers/magazines/music/etc.), what’s happening in retail, what’s happening in transportation, what’s happening in hospitality. But the transformation has just begun, and the confidence we may have now is almost certainly misplaced as the early failures of new entrants are just a precursor to what’s to come.

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But it’s uncomfortable to face reality, and it’s comforting to keep reassuring ourselves that we’ll be OK, especially when we can make up seemingly convincing numbers on paper that shows we’ll be OK.

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But all our sunny projections and incremental shifts in our business model (which feel transformative to us) obscure the most important thing, and what Lonely Planet overlooked as they were trying to use the Internet to sell more books (because they were a bookseller):

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Read that line again.

And again.

Because it’s the whole game.

PS – Gartner has posted much of Gus’ talk on their Facebook page. Check it out.

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