What Media Want vs What Customers Want

July 23, 2010

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my previous post challenging the notion that apps for the iPad and smartphones are somehow signaling the coming end of the open Web (“iPad Dreams and the Delusions of Big Media.”)

But this deluded idea has not gone away. In fact, more wishful journalists keep piling on, declaring the impending doom of the Web with unconvincing displays of regret (to cover the giggles of their schadenfreude).

One of the better such pieces was Michael Hirschorn’s “Closing the Digital Frontier” for The Atlantic.  He offers a thoughtful assessment of the utopian ideology of early Web pioneers, including Stewart Brand’s famously truncated statement that “information wants to be free” (… and expensive).

Yet I still don’t buy Hirschorn’s prediction that the growing power of Apple will make a “rush to apps” irresistible, despite the “lack of uptake” by consumers for paid content.

In an interview with Bob Garfield on On The Media, Hirschorn sets the issue up as a looming digital Cold War between Apple (pushing closed systems) and Google (promoting the open Web).

But the crucial flaw in Hirschorn’s argument was pointed out by the next guest on the show, DailyFinance media columnist Jeff Bercovici:

There are a lot of people who think that all of this talk about how apps are going to be the dominant mode of consumption on tablets and on smart phones are kidding themselves.

All the things that make apps so hugely attractive to media companies–the idea that they can really control the environment, that they can, you know, serve you this sort of richer advertising that’s harder to opt out of–all of those things are exactly the things that make it less attractive to a lot of media consumers.

And that’s the crux of it.  Shifting to closed systems is attractive to media companies, but not to their customers.

In the wide-open, hyper-competitive world of digital media (where an innovative startup will happily steal your audience in a minute), I would put my money on the customers winning.


This was originally posted by David on the DavidRogers.biz blog at: http://www.davidrogers.biz

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