Thursday, July 2, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell has it right. And the going forward value of Print.

Gladwell's review of Andreson's new book is a must read . A follow up post by Seth Godin is also useful. It's about the Information is FREE economy. Gladwell disagrees with Anderson. Godin disagrees with Gladwell. I agree with mostly Gladwell but also with some of Anderson and some of Godin.

Anderson's point is :
Rather, he seems to think of it as an iron law: “In the digital realm you can try to keep Free at bay with laws and locks, but eventually the force of economic gravity will win.”
Gladwell's counter point is:
The only iron law here is the one too obvious to write a book about, which is that the digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws.

My agreement with Anderson and what it means for Print
To musicians who believe that their music is being pirated, Anderson is blunt. They should stop complaining, and capitalize on the added exposure that piracy provides by making money through touring, merchandise sales, and “yes, the sale of some of [their] music to people who still want CDs or prefer to buy their music online.” To the Dallas Morning News, he would say the same thing. Newspapers need to accept that content is never again going to be worth what they want it to be worth, and reinvent their business"
There are a couple of reasons people paid for Print in the past. The most obvious reason was the oligopoly of information delivery between Print and TV. To communicate with masses of people it was broadcast TV and national periodicals. Before TV went mass market, Print had the field to itself and newspapers and periodicals could earn the predictable profits of a monopoly business. After TV went mass market, there was still enough to go around.

But that was then. This is now. The logistics of information delivery while still significant on the internet are radically cheaper and faster than TV or mass market Print. Going forward competition in the information delivery business means low margins. If a business can thrive with low margins it's just another business problem.

The going forward value of Print
Consider the margins in t shirts and memorabilia. Why are people willing to pay $50 for a concert t-shirt? The easy explanation is that people are nuts. I have to agree that in general people are nuts, but that's beside the point. The point is that people make voluntary decisions to exhange hard earned money to buy t-shirts, collect art, and buy photo books.

The often under appreciated value of physical stuff - that includes Print - is that it signifies membership in a tribe. It meets a deep human need to see oneself and to see others as "people like us." To paraphrase, and change a bit "People who need people," are not, in fact, the luckiest people in the world. Needing people is a cause of great stress. Relieving that stress by owning objects that demonstrate to oneself and to others that one is part of a tribe is one of the drving forces behind collecting X, where x can equal books, Lladro, Van Goghs and action figures.

The value of the New York Times is partly the content. But mostly it is the nice warm feeling knowing that "people like us" read the New York Times.

The other values of Print are as platforms for search in physical space and as the platform for compare and contrast. But that's for another post.

No comments:

Post a Comment