A bunch of folks sent over Jeff Jarvis' recent blog post entitled stop selling scarcity
, which I actually think is slightly misleading. If you read the details, he's actually saying that you should very much sell scarcities -- but that you should avoid pretending
that you're selling a scarcity when you're really selling something that it infinitely available:
If you are selling a scarcity -- an inventory -- of any nonphysical goods today, stop, turn around, and start selling value -- outcomes -- instead. Or you're screwed. Apply this rule to many enterprises: advertising, media, content, information, education, consultation, and to some extent, performance.
I have to admit, while I get what he's saying, I'm not sure it's particularly useful to most people, because they've always thought they were selling "outcomes" in the first place. I think that a similar post by filmmaker Ross Pruden may actually be a lot more useful, in that he talks about selling experiences
, which is something that's scarce:
You think you sell a movie--you do not.
You think you sell a book--you do not.
You think you sell a song--you do not.
You sell an experience, something communicated, something elusive and ephemeral. Something mystical and transformative and inspiring. All these abstract things simply come in the shape of a movie, a book, or a song.
Never before has it been possible to strip away these experiences from the product... until now, the Digital Age.
The Digital Age lets us duplicate products infinitely. And, for the first time in human history, creators are not deprived of their original copy.
From that he points out the simple problem that many folks who were used to the old way are facing:
...now we can read a novel without buying a book.
...now we can watch a movie without buying a movie ticket.
...now we can listen to a song without buying a record.
From there, he lists out a bunch of different scarcities that come up with you separate the experience from the physical product, and notes that this is how things have always worked in reality
, it's just that conceptually we merged the experience with the scarce physical product, which is why it's often so difficult to separate them conceptually now that they've become untied in reality.
The key to the Digital Age is to recognize that many existing products already embed intangibles, which is why those products are still being bought. However, once those tangibles stop being offered, or a competitor offers better intangibles, the customer will go elsewhere.
Creators can sustain. They will sustain. The market wants to sustain creators. Yet only the ones who realize that they don't sell products, but experiences. Only those creators are the ones worthy of survival in the Digital Age.
This is a great point, and more eloquent than my own post from a few years back on how every "product" was really a mix of scarce and infinite goods
. To understand what the technology allows, and how to embrace it in a way that's sustainable, you need
to be able to break out the components, and properly figure out what's really scarce, and what isn't.