Customers want control

Once again, a media company misses the point: customers want control over their entertainment. Matt Haughey reported on PVRblog about a recent decision by XM radio to prevent people from storing XM programming. TimeTrax is a third-party program that rips XM signals into your PC so you can play them back later. Rather than allow this convenience to their users, XM discontinued the radio model with USB interface that enables TimeTrax.

Remember The Innovator's Dilemma? New technologies, initially scorned by the established vendors, ultimately destroy them. Why can't the movie and music people see the hard-drive based media center is an opportunity rather than a threat? John Mayer is a great example of a "company" embracing new technology. His web site contains snippets of songs from all of his albums plus lyrics, buddy icons, wallpaper, a screen saver--all designed to keep his name in front of his fans--and of course, a link to buy merchandise. Most important, Mayer is publishing his live concerts as albums on Apple's iTunes, a new one every week, just days after the actual concert. While fans of the Grateful Dead shared bad bootleg recordings of concerts (with the support of the band), Mayer's fans can enjoy great recordings from his concerts, pulled straight from the mixer board. I would imagine that many, many fans immediately download the album of the concert they attended but perhaps the really rabid fans are downloading them all. Sold by album only, they give John and company another $8 per fan with minimal costs. I mean, how much does it cost to post songs online without any packaging?

I'm sure I ranted on this in the past but there are literally hundreds of albums from my college days that I would like to buy again--really obscure albums that will never be released on CD. And I agree with the decision not to publish on CD. Surely only a few listeners would buy "Apprentice in a musical workshop" by Dave Loggins--the album that brought us "Please come to Boston." But posting that album online would cost virtually nothing and deliver revenues to the music companies that they will never receive otherwise. In a similar vein, Joel Spolsky explains why usability wasn't important for Napster. Joel writes, "an application that does something really great that people really want to do can be pathetically unusable, and it will still be a hit." And Napster did something great: it gave us access to music and movies in a format that the media companies would not allow.

The new revolution in music and media is this: today's technology lets vendors create affordable devices that allow truly personalized user experience. Cheap, small hard drives and inexpensive operating systems make TiVo and the iPod possible. Customers of TiVo and iPod, as well as XM radio, become maniacal! Now we're screaming for an iPod for TiVo to let us take our movies on the road and an XM recorder that lets us hear scheduled programs on our schedules. What new product or service could your company offer using a new delivery method even if it's not the way you've always done it? One that is both convenient to your customer and profitable for you.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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