When I was a kid at camp one summer, my parents sent me a telegram wishing me a happy birthday [stop] It made me feel important and special [stop] Last week, that staple of America communications quietly went the way of the dinosaur... [full stop]
Yes, it is true. Western Union, which for years brought us news of births, deaths, war, and peace, delivered its last telegram on January 27 -- another victim of changing times. From a peak of 200 million telegrams delivered in 1929, Western Union steadily (and rapidly in its final years) plunged into obscurity, delivering only 20,000 telegrams last year.
What caused this venerable institution's demise? Why, the very thing that is bringing you its news -- the Internet and its associated email service. Certainly, Western Union must have known its telegram days were numbered at least a decade ago -- the writing was on the wall. And it did manage to reinvent itself somewhat by focusing on other ways to use its infrastructure -- concentrating on financial services offerings like money orders, money transfers, prepaid credit cards, etc. The company handles more than 275 million money transfers each year through its more than 271,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories.
But apparently this was not enough to keep it attractive to its parent company, First Data. They announced last week that Western Union's financial services business would be spun off as a separate, independent, publicly traded company. Ouch!
Seems like the original granddaddy of "instant messaging" should have been able to leverage its knowledge of this business and grand name to shift gears toward a newer version of itself. Ah, but it was not to be. I know in my heart of hearts I will miss being able to send my own daughter that well known yellow letter with strips of text glued to it for her birthday...
Yours in BI success,
Posted February 8, 2006 3:37 PM
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