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Silver linings: The Business Observer turns 25 — and plans for the paper of the future

In recognizing our 25th birthday, we shine a spotlight on how the Business Observer will continue to be a responsive, resilient and reliable source of business news and information.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 9:00 a.m. January 19, 2022
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Opinion
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In looking back in history at what were some of the more notable events of 1997 — the year the Business Observer debuted, back when it was called the Gulf Coast Business Review — three seemingly disparate events and happenings standout: That year marked the debut of Harry Potter, with J.K. Rowling’s "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone." It was also the first time the Dow Jones closed at over 7,000. One other happening: Woolworth’s, once an American titan of retail, which had been in business since 1879, shuttered its last store.

"Harry Potter," of course, has grown into a cultural phenomenon, launching books, movies, a Broadway play and numerous spinoffs. It also created a club of sorts for millions of young readers, who devoured the books and waited anxiously for the next edition. The Dow, meanwhile, with some dips and busts, rose dramatically in the past 25 years, from a close of 7,908 in 1997 to 36,338 in 2021. That’s up 359.5%.

Then there’s Woolworth’s. The Woolworth brothers pioneered many of the merchandising, sales and customer services techniques businesses of all kinds use today. But the company, notably, failed to adapt fast enough to cultural changes and shifts in consumer buying habits. It closed in July 1997.

Mark Gordon.
Mark Gordon.

This trio of events is relevant to the Business Observer in 2022. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary — the first issue was published Jan. 31, 1997 — and look to the next 25 years, the goal is to be Harry Potter and the Dow. Not Woolworth’s.

Some explanation: Just like Rowling’s universe created and cultivated millions of readers, the Business Observer seeks to grow its audience of business owners, CEOs, C-suite occupants and entrepreneurs. And just like Rowling built a widespread yet also in-the-know and devoted family of young readers, we aim to provide our readers — our clan of entrepreneurial-minded spirits — the must-have information, unique inspiration and essential intelligence they need to be better at business.

How does the Dow fit in? Simple. Capitalists unite has long been one of the Business Observer's mantras. What better way to look at the next 25 years of business journalism in Florida than to look back at the unprecedented expansion of the stock market?

And then there’s Woolworth’s. That could be the most important part of this trio of 1997 events seen through the lens of our 25th anniversary. The Business Observer team of reporters, editors, salespeople, designers and web experts are working diligently to ensure we will not become Woolworth’s. (Or Blockbuster Video. Or Blackberry.) We don’t want to be the company that kept doing things the way they also did them, and then one day realized it was game over, with an Amazon, Netflix or Apple at the top.

The media business, like many other sectors, is going through a transformative digital revolution. We aim to stay ahead of these trends, not behind, as news organizations figure out how to thrive in this environment. It helps that the Observer Media Group, the Sarasota-based publisher of the Business Observer, lives by this vision: innovate and elevate.

So what can readers expect from the Business Observer as we navigate this new world — and head into year 26? One statement that will guide us is this: The Business Observer will be known as the premier business publication in its coverage area. We will listen to our readers so that we may build a group of entrepreneurial-minded and C-suite loyalists who are engaged with our content and each other.

In practice, among other things, that means more. More online content that matters. More events, like our already-successful Top Entrepreneur and 40 Under 40 celebrations. And more opportunities for readers to engage, connect and learn from other readers.

We appreciate and our grateful for your support and for reading the Business Observer. And we look forward to continuing to be a valuable part of your business in the next 25 years. 


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