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. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 28 Feb 2012 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And you, again, neglect the uncomfortable (for you) fact that humans have always come up with "content". And the equally uncomfortable detail that a subscription to HBO doesn't begin to cover production costs which are covered in other ways including advertising as well as the export and after markets.

    Most piracy is about the after market. If there is a demand HBO is far better off serving it while they can charge a price that seems fair to both HBO and the potential customer.

    You keep stating that if the "content" is too widely available then in short order there will be no "content" because it would be cannibalized. With respect I disagree. And I have some 6000 years of human creativity that we at least know about once writing was developed to prove that point.

    We are creatures that like to tell each other stories for whatever reason. There are lots of them, by the way. "Content" will not vanish not will quality vanish.

    What may vanish would be the gatekeeper culture that has risen up in the last couple of centuries and the control freak culture around it. Until now the producers have never had to satisfy a demand for stories at a reasonable price, in a reasonable time frame. Like you, they can't get it through there head that that kind of thing works.

    In the end, of course, the customer is always supposed to be right. Those who will pay or the small number who won't though, are both forced into what you call piracy by the paranoia of gatekeepers that this will somehow lessen the value of their "content" rather than create more demand and enhance it.

    Who knows, one day you and they may realize that. Until then we'll have long discussions about file sharing, piracy and the need for newer and ever more draconian laws. You enhance the value of "content" not one little bit by restricting access to it and increase it's value by making it widely and simply available.

    I'll close by beating you over the head with the ghost of Henry Ford who proved that point. Even if you refuse to see it.

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