The Law of New Media

Horace Dediu writes about the law of new media: “Once you change the method of distribution, the product has to change.”

Fundamentally, you can’t move an existing media to a new network. You have to think of it as a deeply rooted-in system, and it’s just not going to like moving to another environment. You have to uproot this huge tree, and it just won’t come out and if it did it will not take root in a new place.

The only way to create this new value network around new distribution is to plant a new tree.

I have never seen it put this way before but makes me think about all the products that were dominant in the PC era, of which handhelds were literally just a shrinking of, to today’s world of ultra-connected, always on, pocketable computing. How do products like Word and Excel work in this new world? Is Google’s strategy of moving very similar copies into the cloud resolve the “product change” problem? How about using them on tablets and smartphones? The same UI, as Microsoft is proving with Windows 8, doesn’t work. Do these products need to be re-invented from the ground up? Or are the products fine but need a different business model?

When I say “shrinking,” by the way, I don’t mean this from a product design perspective. I mean this from a distribution and business model perspective. Handhelds were sold the same way PCs were sold and handheld software was basically sold the same way desktop software was sold. This began to change with the rise of cellphones and smartphones, starting with the carriers taking control of both and eventually app stores dominating software sales. The method of software distribution has changed.

When I read Horace’s best work, I’m often confronted with more questions then answers, not just about the technology market but specifically about my own business. This post resonates with me very strongly.