In a recent interview long time media pro and founder of MarketWatch.com Larry Kramer provided some thoughtful insights on the state of media today. He says we are in the midst of a "Gutenberg Moment" where everything is changing based on new technology. He puts forth the idea of 4 "C's" (why do media and technology guru's love lists of "C"'s in order to describe their market transitions?!) in media today.
Kramer's eloquent market observations and clever "A Gutenberg Moment" definition are spot on. We are indeed experiencing a prolonged series of market transitions in media based on advances in technology. A series of "Gutenberg moments" if you will. These transitions aren't linear either. They are disruptive at their inception, then play out over time. Sometimes in surprising ways. Two timely examples here worth reflecting on:
- LinkedIn. When this brand was first established, it appeared that the registration engine and the network that was created would hold potential for all sorts of revenue streams. Contextual advertising and market research on specific B2B communities where two that were most often touted. The announcement that LinkedIn has quietly retreated from B2B research is telling. Perhaps they have learned that a recruitment platform by another name is still a recruitment platform. I still see LinkedIn as a Dice and Monster.com killer, not a broad media and business information platform. But time will tell.
- Apple iPad. Ok, so I'll admit up front that I'm a technology and gadget geek, as my family, friends and colleagues will attest! Having sat at the intersection between technology and media for 20 years however, I can also sense a market transition when I see one. Make no mistake about it, the iPad will be a game changer. And not simply because the elegance of the UI and features of the iPad will make the Kindle look like an "etch o sketch" by comparison. The difference is in Apple's ability to organize content markets. Amazon, a very smart and successful digital retailer, isn't in the business of organizing markets. And their approach to the Kindle reflects this. The Kindle is simply an extension of their core business, providing digital access to retail goods and services. Kindle allows you to get books digitally. Period. With the iPod, the iPhone and soon to be the iPad, Apple has used a platform to organize a digital market for end users as well as both traditional publishers and individual publishers. From music in iTunes to applications in the app store, Apple has a strong vision for creating a large, scalable market. Yes there are issues around how open these markets are and friends of mine who are particularly advanced in open source approaches have found flaws in the Apple approach. In terms of actually scaling a market however, you can't argue with the success they have seen. My sense-and clearly the perspective of a ton of other people-is that we are about to see Apple organize the next digital marketplace with the iPad as a platform. While the iPad isn't the first "e-reader" it may well represent the missing link between print and online that most of us have been talking about for years. Bear in mind that it wasn't that long ago that people laughed at the idea of the iPod and iTunes. I remember reading smug analyst reports on the "folly of Steve Job's ambition". Some folly. Also remember that Steve Jobs is Disney's largest shareholder and sits on the board. Talk about ambition. Will the iPad truly be a game changer for digital content? Here as well, only time will tell.