Would You Rather Be 'Right' Or Realistic?

from the being-right-in-fantasy-land-doesn't-help-much-in-the-real-world dept

We recently wrote about the excellent comic from Matthew Inman's The Oatmeal to highlight how companies turn would-be buyers into infringers by not making the content available. Here's a snippet.
In response, some folks sent over columnist Andy Ihnatko's response, in which he suggests the comic is actually representative of the sense of entitlement that people feel towards such content. Ihnatko's writeup is slightly amusing as he tries to mock those consumers for actually having an opinion on how they consume content and concludes with this basic statement:
The world does not OWE you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it.

I sometimes wonder if this simple, grown-up fact gets ignored during all of these discussions about digital distribution.
I was going to write a rather long response to why this is kinda silly, but Marco Arment did a better job than I ever would in explaining the difference between being "right" and being "pragmatic." You really should read the whole thing, because it involves a rather detailed example involving the physical layout of a restroom. I'm going to skip over that part and highlight the summary point, but it's worth reading the full thing:
We often try to fight problems by yelling at them instead of accepting the reality of what people do, from controversial national legislation to passive-aggressive office signs. Such efforts usually fail, often with a lot of collateral damage, much like Prohibition and the ongoing “war” on “drugs”....

[....]

Relying solely on yelling about what’s right isn’t a pragmatic approach for the media industry to take. And it’s not working. It’s unrealistic and naive to expect everyone to do the “right” thing when the alternative is so much easier, faster, cheaper, and better for so many of them.
This point could be seen as the central theme of many of the 40,000 plus posts that have been made on this blog: dealing with reality is always going to be a more effective way to go about things than taking some "moral" stand on how things "should" be. And, if you can deal with the realities and it actually solves the whole moral "I'm right!" part at the same time, what good is it to not deal with realities?

Taking the point even further, there's a simple fact of today's world, which is that consumers have power. Ihnatko's entire point seems to assume that this consumer power is "entitlement." I tend to think of it as consumers making their will known -- and that tends to lead to better products that should make everyone better off. What Ihnatko ignores is that a market is not determined by just one side. It's the interplay between buyers and sellers, and if the buyers aren't happy, they express that to the sellers in certain ways -- and infringement is one of those ways. It's a market signalling method. I'd argue that it's just as much an "entitlement" mentality by the "sellers" to pretend that only they get to decide what the consumer should be able to get, without listening to what the consumer wants.

Filed Under: business models, infringement, morals, practicality, realism, right


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2012 @ 10:34am

    Re:

    "Rhetorical question: If we all hate Mike, why are we reading this blog?"

    I don't think people specifically hate Mike as a person. He seems likable enough that nobody would walk away from him or whatever.

    However, enough people disagree with his stands. I know I personally dislike his word games, his "I am smart than you" snarky attitude, and his need to always be right, even when he is painfully wrong.

    Like most good snake oil salesmen, Mike has the gift of gab, the ability to cover up the obvious flaws in his material, and a keen sense of how to select narrow statements, information, or data to prop up his points of view.

    He loves to play weasel as well, not supporting piracy, but supporting everything around it, it's right to exist, the business models that come from it, the "free speech" generated by it, etc., all while pushing business models that would be hard to justify without it. He is unable to come out and say "I support piracy", yet without it, his business models would not work out very well at all.

    Reading his blog is a challenge, it is entertaining and fun to try to get people to stop sipping the kool aid for a minute and consider the other side of the argument. For those who can, the time spent is worth it. For those who cannot, it's amusing to watch them get their knickers in a bunch trying to explain how much they hate copyright, hate patents, and hate big music, while working in one field, and aspiring to one of the others. It's fun, amusing, and entertaining.

    The rest of it is like watching sheep get herded. Boring, until you watch the movement of the dog. That is skillful, and Mike certainly has barked up a storm.

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