New Rules

More than ten years into it, formerly major players still haven’t figured out how the Web works and what they can do, especially because they’re asking the wrong questions. The question is not “How can I re-establish the old system, when I had the power, in this new medium and keep it at the same level for a long time to come to make as much money as possible with processes that have been working for me in the last 50 years?” Asking for something like this seems pretty silly, but it’s exactly what big companies do. Why? It’s the people who work there. They want to do the job they’ve been doing ever since, but we don’t need these jobs to be done anymore, at least not in the same fashion.

What every player, regardless of size or age, needs to admit at first is that not only yesterday, but also today is a sunk cost, because you can’t change it, not at a significant level. So the question becomes “How do the achievements of today (i.e., the latest technical innovation) shift user expectations for tomorrow, and how can I use what I got to satisfy or exceed them?” Example: YouTube today is not what it was 6 years ago. Today’s standards make it very unlikely someone will watch a shaky mobile phone video with your cat chasing the woolen ball over and over and tell all her friends. What we want is high definition video, professionally shot and, even more important, a good story worth our time. We’ve moved beyond the point of boredom and doing stuff only for excitement, because there’s no more scarcity of entertainment for its own sake.

No, the new scarcity is one that major movie studios could fill if they only decided to abandon their old-fashioned monetization chain. They need to figure out how to get HD video in 3D to my home, so easy, comfortable and cheap that torrent downloads or physical pirate copies are not attractive any more to everybody worldwide. What’s as important: They can help me discover more movies, just like Amazon does. But they could use a different algorithm, and only when I’m logged in. I don’t want a useless recommendation e-mail invade my inbox each day just to make me come back and spend more money.

Just like the music industry wouldn’t have had to invent iTunes, but Spotify. We have always needed and still need someone to help us discover more of the stuff we already like and buy, and only then do we need someone to actually give it to us, not the other way round.
The Internet has not ridded us of all scarcities, it just shifted them a lot. The ultimate scarcity is now time, because there is too much to choose from, and people and companies are adding ever more stuff. Today we need someone to help us find the stuff we want. And there’s a reason why there are not many people around trying to solve this problem successfully.

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