Post-Medium Publishing

Paul Graham, who is a terrific essayist as well as a successful entrepreneur, has a new piece on Post-Medium Publishing which has some very perceptive things to say about what print publishers are getting wrong. He concludes it thus:

I don’t know exactly what the future will look like, but I’m not too worried about it. This sort of change tends to create as many good things as it kills. Indeed, the really interesting question is not what will happen to existing forms, but what new forms will appear.

The reason I’ve been writing about existing forms is that I don’t know what new forms will appear. But though I can’t predict specific winners, I can offer a recipe for recognizing them. When you see something that’s taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn’t have before, you’re probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that’s merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you’re probably looking at a loser.

Yep. That’s why Napster took off: people wanted tracks but the record industry would only sell them albums, because the economics of shipping plastic disks made that mandatory. Napster enabled users to get tracks, and boy did they like it. Of course it helped that the tracks were free. But if they had been reasonably priced from the outset, illicit file-sharing would have been containable.

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the link.