Friday, January 03, 2014

OTT providers are not to blaim - subscribers are

Breaking Views blames the Google founders for demolishing the newspaper industry. Gigaom rightfully disagrees (No, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are not to blame for the decline of the media industry): "In a similar way, many people who might normally have paid money to place a classified ad in a newspaper have chosen instead to post one for free on Craigslist. Is that Craig Newmark’s fault? Hardly. He stumbled on an opportunity — one that was also open to newspapers and other media outlets — and he pursued it. Blaming him (or Google) for their decline is like blaming Henry Ford for the decline of the buggy-whip manufacturing industry".

Ironically, NRC regularly publishes Breaking Views content. And NRC's Editor in Chief gave his views on the newspaper trouble. Peter Vandermeersch shows he understands this better than the Breaking Views analysts ("Industries come and go."), but he makes a somewhat different point: it remains to be seen if in-depth journalism (which is important for transparency in any democracy) can be taken over by online (or radio, TV) news agencies. The way newspapers covered Edward Snowden and the NSA is a case in point.

But blaming Google makes no sense. All Google does is 'provide'. Like the Division in 'Marathon Man':

When the gap gets too large between what the FBI can handle effectively and what the CIA doesn't wanna deal with, we step in.
- Who's we? - The Division.
- And my brother worked with you? - Yes.
- You're full of shit. What do you do exactly? - We provide.
- Provide what? - Anything.

In this respect, the argument made by Breaking Views resembles what some operators say when they complain about OTT providers (!) have a 'free ride' on the operators' networks. In fact, all the OTT providers do is ... provide. And subscribers are the ones to blaim. Subscribers generate traffic, not OTT providers. They prefer OTT over managed services. Just like they prefer Craigslist over newspaper classifieds.

And blaiming subscribers is obviously dumb. It shows how an industry fails to follow its subscribers as they move from one platform to another. Just like the post office, that should have been a pioneer of e-mail, instead of letting Microsoft/Hotmail and others corner that market.

Final point: there is no such thing as 'changing consumer behaviour'. Subscribers simply move from one platform (such as SMS) to another one (WhatsApp), which is much user-friendlier and more innovative.

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