The Search For The Mythological Magical Business Model Bullet

from the give-it-up,-it-doesn't-exist dept

One of the things I've noticed over the past few years, in discussing the various business models that are working for content creators, is that one of the regular criticisms we get is that "this won't work for 'x'." Or something along those lines. Basically, they want to write off any success story as an exception, and yet they like to use any "failure" of a business model experiment as proof that innovative business models can't work. That all seems backwards to me (after all, if a single failure disproves a business model, then we can conclude that the business of selling CDs or movies "failed" the first time one of those offerings flopped).

I was thinking about this a bit more after reading Mathew Ingram's take on Paul Biggar's long post mortem on why his greatly hyped NewsTilt collapsed and shut down after just a few months. That post is interesting, though not surprising if you've ever worked in a startup (especially one that's failed). NewsTilt was trying to "solve" the "problems" facing the journalism business, but the founders admitted they didn't really care about journalism that much -- which was a pretty big problem. Still, what caught my attention at the end of Ingram's post, was where he notes (paraphrasing David Cohn of the journalism startup
There is no magic bullet that will suddenly save the media industry, or transform ordinary journalists into independent-thinking online media businesses.
I'd expand on that, and note that there is no "magic bullet" that will suddenly save any content industry that's in a state of disruption today. And that's okay. But it's part of the problem. The folks who were used to being able to rely on artificial scarcities had a crutch for a business model. It let them lean on that artificial backstop, rather than really think about more creative (and, potentially, better) business models. But, just as relying too much on crutches without exercising your legs can make those muscles atrophy, those who rely too much on artificial scarcity let their creative business modeling ability atrophy as well. So they all want to know what the "magic bullet" is, and have trouble accepting any answer that doesn't involve a magic bullet. If it's not a magic bullet, it's an "exception" or it "won't scale," and thus, it doesn't matter.

But that's a huge mistake. Because one way or another, all of these industries are changing rapidly. And while certain models will become more standard, none will be a magic bullet. It's always going to involve experimenting and adjusting as the world changes. Those who are waiting for the magic bullet seem to think that if they just keep asking for a magic bullet, the old models crumbling around them will stay up. That's not how it works. The old models are crumbling, whether or not there's a magic bullet. So rather than complaining about the lack of a magic bullet, isn't it about time you started experimenting with what is out there?
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Filed Under: business models, magic bullet

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  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 4 Oct 2010 @ 10:28am

    The magic bullet is...

    The if you follow the following three rules

    1) Don't suck.

    2) Don't try to rip people off.

    3) Get your message out.

    then I guarantee success.

    Most of the "business model variation" lies in how you achieve number 3 - and of course number 1 is very non-trivial.

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