Here are the top five articles I read this week. You can see all my favorites at the iNate Instapaper feed.
Bloomberg Businessweek: How Samsung Became the World's No. 1 Smartphone Maker
Samsung is a behemoth in an age where vertically integrated firms are dying. How? The key insight is a strategy built on Michael Porter's five forces. Samsung starts in an expensive, upstream position, learns all it can, and then vertically integrates it's move to box out potential competition.
Consider the disciplined way Samsung Electronics moves into new product categories. Like other Korean conglomerates—LG and Hyundai come to mind—the first step is to start small: make a key component for that industry. Ideally the component will be something that costs a lot of money to manufacture, since costly barriers to entry help limit competition. Microprocessors and memory chips are perfect. “A semiconductor fab costs $2 billion to $3 billion a pop, and you can’t build half a fab,” says Lee Keon Hyok, Samsung’s global head of communications (and no relation to Chairman Lee). “You either have one or you don’t.”
Once the infrastructure is in place, Samsung begins selling its components to other companies. This gives the company insight into how the industry works. When Samsung decides to expand operations and start competing with the companies it has been supplying, it makes massive investments in plants and technologies, leveraging its foothold into a position that other companies have little chance of matching.
New York Magazine: Does Buzzfeed Know the Secret?
Buzzfeed does know the secret, and it's more about people and corporate structure than about virality algorithms. Look at how Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed's founder, talks about their work in advertising:
Peretti says that twentieth-century media businesses sowed the seeds of their own destruction by treating advertising as a “necessary evil.” He, by contrast, doesn’t care whether a post is produced by a journalist or sponsored by a brand, so long as it travels. He’s a semiotic Darwinist: He believes in messages that reproduce. “Some editorial content sucks, some ads are awesome,” Peretti told me, “and for many readers this line is even more important to them than church and state.” Within BuzzFeed, he’s stressed that creating custom-designed advertising posts is just as important as writing the hard news and soft candy. “People don’t do good work when they feel like losers and are second-class citizens within their own company,” he wrote in a memo distributed last year.
Wall Street Journal: Paul Johnson: The World-Changing Margaret Thatcher
Historians don't usually make judgments, but Johnson's subtitle is "not since Catherine the Great has there been a woman of such consequence." Here's his closing thought:
Among the British public she aroused fervent admiration and intense dislike in almost equal proportions, but in the world beyond she was recognized for what she was: a great, creative stateswoman who left the world a better and more prosperous place, and whose influence will reverberate well into the 21st century.
New York Times: Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?
...helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity...
G.K. Chesterton: Why I am a Catholic
Here's the crux of this essay:
The Catholic Church carries a sort of map of the mind which looks like the map of a maze, but which is in fact a guide to the maze. It has been compiled from knowledge which, even considered as human knowledge, is quite without any human parallel.
There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially nearly all errors.
As I read the whole essay, I found myself agreeing with most of what Chesterton described. However I'm not a Catholic and have no interest in becoming one. The Christian religion as a whole is responsible for much of what he identifies as solely Catholic.