BY PERRY BROTHERS
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Technology ruled during a lively panel discussion Wednesday about business trends in 2005.
One panelist, economist George Gilder, said Internet growth will leave television dead in the next millennium -- to which fellow panelist, William Burleigh, president and CEO of Cincinnati-based media giant E.W. Scripps Co., took issue.
By the close of the discussion, sponsored by Deloitte & Touche accounting firm, all four panelists agreed that media and communications advances drastically will overhaul the way Americans do business. They said companies must acclimate to survive.
The panel discussion, at the Phoenix, downtown, was the first of several planned in cities where Deloitte & Touche has offices. The firm commissioned a survey of 409 executives to gather predictions of the future of business.
"You can predict the future fairly safely in technology," Mr. Gilder, president of Gilder Technology Group and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. "If the pace of the last six years continues for the next six years, you'll have a million-fold rise in Internet use."
Nine out of 10 executives see the Internet as the most important source of business news, with newspapers and television falling in second and third place, respectively, according to the survey by Yankelovich Partners. Forty percent of the executives said telecommunications will have the greatest impact on business. "Television is dead," Mr. Gilder said. "Newspapers will be more powerful than ever, because newspapers already give more power to the consumer."
As a result, he said, advertising will be transformed, affecting how every company promotes its products.
Mr. Burleigh called Mr. Gilder's obituary of television premature but then admitted sheepishly that he typically doesn't watch the 11 o'clock news because he gets his news from the Internet and then turns in early.
Panelist Michael Treacy -- author, corporate strategist and managing director of Treacy & Co. consulting firm -- countered that regardless of the changes in how companies do business, quality of the service and products still will determine who survives. "I think we're looking at this from the wrong end," he said, adding that whichever way a consumer finds a product or service, they won't keep buying unless they are satisfied.
Those consumer expectations have made American companies superior.
"We have customers who have outrageously unrealistic expectations of what they deserve," Mr. Treacy said. "When we go into other countries, we just blow people away. We are very well-positioned" as an international business force.
Linda Wertheimer, a host of National Public Radio's All Things Considered, moderated the discussion.
Other findings in the survey revealed that the executives see other U.S. companies as the biggest competitive threat to American businesses in 2005, and Asia will be the largest growth area (the survey was completed last winter, before the worst of the Asian economic crisis).
Finding qualified workers in the increasingly sophisticated business world will pose one of the greatest challenges to companies in coming years, and 80 percent of the respondents said their companies will increase the use of outsourced services. Seventy-seven of those respondents said they now use outside expertise for at least one business function.
As for national economic indicators, the surveyed executives predicted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will hit 13,478 in 2005 and that the prime rate will see little change at 7.53 percent.