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6.26.20   1:29 PM Innovation - Entertainment

Olympus was crumbling for months, and now the camera brand is being sold off

The shutter is clicking on Olympus' time in the camera business, one last time.

Camera maker Olympus is clicking the shutter on the business one last time, jettisoning operations to a Japanese investor, and quitting the game after more than 80 years in an industry that has been badly disrupted by the smartphone over the last decade. 

Under pressure from investor ValueAct Capital to boost returns, Olympus' deal to sell off its camera making business to Japanese Industrial Partners in a deal that did not disclose financial details immediately. And, various alternative data points track the company's decline and its woes with consumers. 

Based on Olympus' ($TYO:7733) job listings, it looks as if the plan to sell the brand off to Japanese Industrial Partners crystallized around March - although the plunge in postings could also be attributed to the pandemic, which forced many international manufacturers to hold off on hiring during the worst of the outbreak. 

For years, Olympus' LinkedIn Headcount, which tracks the number of people who will list the company as their 'current' employer, has declined over the last several months. Headcount via LinkedIn is down more than 10% already from the 2019 peak, which came after a long run-up in growth.  

The arrival of the smartphone and subsequent advances of technology allowing users to take better panoramic pictures has been one of the biggest threats to camera companies like Olympus. Initially, the arrival of the smartphone in the marketplace in 2007 was a different kind of threat to Olympus and its peers.

But the cameras on the earliest iterations of handsets were only good for short-range photography. That's changed more recently, and companies like Apple continue to horn in on territory that consumers no longer even recognize as having been Olympus'. The company's descent was helped little by a 2011 scandal, the BBC noted. 

Finally, Facebook Likes - which, similar to Olympus' Facebook Talking About Count, has been declining over the years. It's not a surprise that the camera maker, as it was being prepped for sale, saw a decline in advertising attention that would lead to a pullback in social media engagement, and the loss of likes over the years reflects the woes that competitors to the mighty smartphone have suffered. 

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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