National Geographic is a great example of a company that completely reinvented its image and focus. In 1914, National Geographic magazine made a big splash with beautiful color photographs. Over the decades, that’s what National Geographic became known for – it was a magazine with stunning photography. However, that product appealed less and less to younger generations and by the 2000’s, the magazine was relying on a smaller and smaller aging customer base. From the 1980’s to the late 2000’s, English-language National Geographic subscription number were halved.
Fortunately, the company’s CEO John Fahey realized that the company needed to innovate if it wanted to survive. It needed to be more than a magazine with stunning imagery. Although the company already made documentaries, in 2001 it spiced up its entertainment options with the launch of the National Geographic Channel. The channel features what Fahey calls “factual entertainment” – sensational programming set in foreign prisons or following troops overseas. At the same time, National Geographic began having its reporters post online content more regularly, a significant move away from the monthly magazine model upon which the publication was founded.