Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Will People Pay for?

Another benefit of reading Dan Bricklin’s recent post on New Interaction was finding the link to his post from July 11, 2000 titled What Will People Pay For?

With all the conversation about Chris Anderson’s new book Free, I thought a look back might add some interesting touchstones.

First, Dan didn’t think eCommerce was where the Internet was headed.

From 8 years later I would have to say eCommerce has done OK.

But he was very prescient in his next thinking…

“Look at how regular people use cellphones, especially if the cost is low like it is in many countries outside the USA. Listen to cab drivers with their own cellphones, bus drivers, mothers, kids, etc. They mainly talk to their friends and loved ones for very personal, mundane things. "I finally left the office, but traffic is light", "Yes, I can pick up a pizza on the way home", "I've got a free minute and thought I'd say hi", "Did you find it yet?", "Where are you?", "No, I didn't do it, I thought you were going to do it", "Well, tell him Daddy says no, too", "What's up? Wanna do something tonight?", etc.”

“People like to interact with people they care about. The interactions are often simple, but personally important. They are willing to pay money for this. That's why they pay for cellphones, for Internet access, and for postcards and postage, and for souvenirs. It gives them emotional satisfaction. They pay money to travel to visit family and friends.

I get an image in my head when I see people on the street having these simple interactions on the phone. It's that image of primates sitting next to each other grooming one another. Simple, kind interactions with the ones close to us are innate.

People also pay money for other forms of emotion that aren't through other people directly: listening to music, watching movies (usually with other people -- doing it alone with TV they won't pay for), seeing something beautiful or interesting.”

//Here Ends Quoting//

The Internet – MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc – made these things essentially free. This is Anderson’s premise. So Dan missed on paying for everyday interactions. But he did not miss at all in understanding this would be the primary value of the Internet. And where there is value, some folks will find ways to make some kind of business around that value.

The phone comparison is such a fine analogy for the additional reason that the telephone industry is in so delicate a balancing act of losing voice to VOIP but gaining Internet on mobile. Too bad newspapers, record companies and video content providers do not have semi monopolistic control of a distribution channel.

I suppose the challenge for Disney and Spielberg, CBS and FOX , The New York Times and the Statesville Record and Landmark, is to learn to compete with our family and friends and loved ones dominating our time and attention “for very personal, mundane things.”

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