Our company's Media LINX program holds lessons for all businesses.

”Grow or die” is the famous business maxim of Peter Drucker. It refers not only to revenue growth, but to progress in technology and business systems, i.e., qualitative growth as well as quantitative.

I got to thinking about Peter Drucker - widely regarded as the most astute business management guru of all time and almost certainly the most readable - with the recent introduction of BNP Media LINX. It's an online search engine, powered by Google, that our parent company introduced last month. Compared with our previous online search capabilities, it's like going from the Wright Brothers' airplane to the space shuttle with no stops in between. And that's the kind of progress a lot of companies have needed to make to keep pace with a furiously changing business landscape.

Our company has grown more than fivefold since I came aboard in 1991. Along the way came the need to expand qualitatively as well as in revenues. I and virtually all of my colleagues with BNP Media Co. believe that print publications like this one will never disappear - we're too darned user friendly. Yet, we're also cognizant of the business we're in.

For about a hundred years, from approximately the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, railroads were among our nation's most dominant corporations. It's been observed that they fell by the wayside for failing to identify the business they were in. They thought they were about railroads. They were really in the transportation business. Failure to see this doomed them to be superseded by airlines and the automotive industry.

Our company would be making the same mistake if we thought of ourselves as being in the publishing business. Actually, we're part of the information industry. And that means we have to keep pace with developments in the biggest boon to information transmission since the printing press.

The Internet started to come into widespread commercial use about a decade ago. It seems like a hundred years, doesn't it? The amount of information available back then was a small fraction of today's. Most organizations did not yet have a Web site, and those that did posted little more than electronic brochures. Remember all the finger-drumming that took place waiting for those simple Web pages to load?

Our company was neither in the forefront nor a laggard in joining the Internet Age. We started putting our magazines' content online about the same time other large- and medium-size trade publishers did. Along the way we learned by trial and error, improved, and continued growing - quantitatively and qualitatively. Some of our online efforts went very well. But one thing didn't. Our search capabilities left much to be desired. First-generation search engines were powered entirely by certain key words. When we initially offered readers the chance to look up past articles and topics online, we editors were tasked to come up with the key words and phrases that would reference the articles people were looking for. But we weren't experts in that regard, and it was hard even for those of us within the company to call up desired articles on demand.

Google knows how to do it right. It would take someone far more techie than me to explain how it works, but it's clear Google has the dominant search technology. It has leapfrogged Lycos, Yahoo, Netscape, Alta Vista and all the others in usage. Most of us have used Google-powered searches, and know how effective its search engine is in conjuring up relevant information at the touch of a mouse.

Now, BNP Media LINX has allied with Google to take our search capabilities from the propeller airplane era to the space age in one gigantic leap. For readers/users like you, plug in a few key words and you'll gain access to all pertinent information not only from this magazine, but from scores of BNP Media publications spanning numerous industries. For online advertisers, there are a host of benefits, including access to a wider universe of readership and pay-per-click pricing.

If you haven't visited the SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES Web site in a while, do so at www.supplyht.com. Type in the kind of information you're interested in, and watch BNP Media LINX work its magic. If you're interested in spreading your message in a highly targeted fashion, go to www.bnpmedialinx.com, or call 1-866-383-8764.

After you do so, take a moment to ponder all the ways your business has changed due to the Internet. Better yet, think about how it SHOULD be changing to take advantage of this information-saturated era we live in.<<