Chris Anderson once observed that every abundance creates a new scarcity – and vice versa. So if digital is the abundance, what’s the new scarcity? I think it’s analogue – and by that I mean the things that are hard to reproduce and share quickly.
Books used to be like that. They could be reproduced but only with a high level of determination. They could be forwarded, but really only one copy at a time. No longer. Once a book exists as a file or a link, reproduction time and difficulty of access plummets. So does price.
The new law of market physics it seems to me is:
Ability to charge for value = inability to forward effortlessly
Special experiences, for example, retain their value because they’re not easily cc’d. TED has huge analogue value. Sure, I can watch and share the videos but the atmosphere, the conversations, the networking – these are things that affect each attendee individually and so are impossible to reproduce generally. To really get what TED gives, you have to be there. And you have to keep coming back and paying again and again to access more TED experiences.
So what does that mean for brands? It hints at an irony: a business model where the thing that makes you popular is not where you make the money. And the things that make you money are sufficiently removed or different from what makes you popular in order to be limited.