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Competition provides a proof of concept.  If the competition can make it work, then there’s a real  avenue to develop.  Nascent efforts can interpret competition as a non-starter, as though someone already got to the idea, the take away being: what’s the point?  But as with any industry, multiple versions of the same thing almost always spring up, unless of course, a monopoly as formed.  But even monopolies can be toppled by novel interpretations of the same idea.


Competing versions of similar products keep the idea healthy.  Each learns from the other in a kind of arm’s race that is constantly scaling up.  Sometimes this sort of competition results in a race to the bottom, as has happened with major news organizations that have fallen victim to the internet world of ad-click revenue.  Each new organization has grown more and more skewed in an effort to draw eyeballs, and by extension clicks, and further extension: money.  Why buy a newspaper if it can be read for free online?


This presents the ultimate form of competition: how do you compete with something that’s free?  When a thoughtfully curated Twitter feed is more informative and nuanced than any of the major new paper organizations, how can those news organizations possibly compete?  They simply can’t, at least not in the antiquated form they’ve maintained while slipping into the ugly era of internet revenue.


New technologies require radical rethinking of revenue streams when they make old revenue streams irrelevant.  This is blindingly obvious, and yet there’s been very little rethinking, and certainly almost no radical rethinking on the part of news organizations.  They represent a failure to pivot, a failure to welcome what is new, and perhaps most of all, they represent a toppled monopoly.  Most people get their news from Facebook posts as opposed to the Washington Post, or the New York Times.  The mistake on the part of the incumbents was to try and play the same game, the new game, which is all about engagement.  Depth was sacrificed for superficial glances.


Distributors of information have always employed sensationalist tactics to try and sell their product.  Even a hundred years ago there were those who bemoaned the salacious quality of newspaper writing.  The internet simply provided a conduit that cuts out the physical middle man.  There’s no need to buy the paper, and print the words, and hire the writers and the journalists and the fact checkers and the researchers.  All that can happen organically via the audience, given just the right platform.


While the news giants of yesterday may be taking their last wheezing breaths, that does not mean that competition has ceased.  New social platforms will arise to nock the current digital incumbents for the very reason that they were best formed to topple the previous giants of news, and the new ones will be designed to compete with the current ones.  Competition in this sense is a kind of immune response.  Concepts hunger to improve and welcome their own reincarnation through a better imagining, a better implementation.  


Far from being a threat, competition is a primary signal about how to improve.

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Podcast Ep. 1129: Competition Concept

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