WMU News

New book focuses on future of telecommunications

April 6, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- A week before his new book detailing the business strategies and structures of the telecommunications industry went to press, Richard Gershon's wife innocently asked if he had seen the Wall Street Journal story about AT&T 's plans to sell off its long-distance division.

AT&T's announcement indicated a major departure in the telecommunications giant's business strategy as well as a hint of forthcoming shifts for the entire industry. These kind of rapid, industry-transforming changes and their effect on the telecommunications realm are discussed in Gershon's new book, "Telecommunications Management: Industry Structures and Planning Strategies" recently published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Divided into two parts, the first half of Gershon's book examines the business structures of the telecommunication industry; the second half examines the business of managing telecommunications operations. Gershon, an associate professor of communication at Western Michigan University, called upon specialists in the fields of leadership, finance, marketing and the Internet to contribute chapters to the text and included five in-depth case studies taken from the International Radio Television Society's annual case study competitions.

He admits that writing a book detailing the operations of an industry where change happens faster than the speed of fiber optics was a challenge.

"Change in technology is having a profound and volatile effect on the telecommunications industry. The 21st century promises a very different set of industry players than in the past," he says.

With that in mind, he wrote the book to help students and professionals in the field understand these changes, the business strategies that drive them and the direction they will take the telecommunications industry in the future.

"The clear lines and boundaries that once separated broadcasting, cable, telephone, and Internet communication are becoming less distinct," says Gershon. "We are seeing a natural convergence of industries being driven by the digitalization of media and information technology. The future will be comprised of telecommunications companies that have 'one-stop shopping,' where customers will be offered everything from Internet, cable, phone service and wireless services from one provider."

This new direction is already evident in the January merger of America Online, the nation's largest supplier of Internet services, and Time Warner, a transnational media corporation with vast

holdings in broadcast, cable and print media. Gershon says that Time Warner needed an Internet strategy and AOL needed content, so the merger created new synergies for both.

"This is old media and new media coming together," he says. "What's interesting is AOL, the new media company, is one-fifth the size of Time-Warner, yet it's the one doing the buying. It's like a fish consuming a whale."

Providing an understanding of such vertical integration strategies and their impact on the future of the telecommunications industry is a pivotal part of Gershon's book.

"I've tried to give as comprehensive a view of the industry and management strategies as possible, and the case studies help the reader pull it all together in an applied context. What sets this book apart is its emphasis on understanding the relationship and convergence patterns between broadcast, cable, telephone and Internet communication industries," he explains. "Today's telecommunications manager must understand both the program software and the different delivery platforms."

"Telecommunications Management" is Gershon's second book. His first, "The Transnational Media Corporation: Global Messages and Free Market Competition" was the National Cable Television Center and Museum's 1997 Book of the Year. A WMU faculty member since 1989, Gershon is the co-founder of the telecommunications program in the Department of Communication. He teaches courses in telecommunications management, law and regulations, and communication technology. He holds a master's degree from the University of Vermont and a doctoral degree from Ohio University.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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