Nov. 29th, 2006

The Web cuts the fat from our shopping basket.

Proponents of the "would you like fries with your burger" approach to marketing listen up.

Our days of foisting unwanted products and features on Johnny Consumer are numbered.  The Internet is freeing us from the tyranny of "added value". William Bulkeley points out in today’s Journal that "when customers find a way to avoid buying excess baggage, they move quickly":

– The film industry spent years selling us rolls of 24 shots when all we ever  wanted was one or two good pictures of Fido. Walgreen’s continues the tradition by offering two sets of prints for the price of one.  New web services like Flickr and iPhoto allow us to pay for only the pictures we want.

– For years, the music industry sold us albums packed with songs, when all we really wanted was one hit single. iTunes and Napster saved us from this horrible blight.

– Newspapers sell us advertising packaged around news. TV assails us with unwanted commercials every 5 minutes or so. While we, the ad industry, continue to fool ourselves with the notion that consumers WANT to see our ads. Not so Google (Well not so much anyway).

– Encyclopedia Brittanica sold thousands of unopened volumes to people seeking enlightenment on just a few issues. Saved by Wikipedia and search engines.

– Technology companies of all sizes sell us products packed with features we will never use (and never asked for). Well, no one has saved us from this just yet. But its coming.

– Ad agencies and the media have sold Corporate America billions of dollars of advertising solutions with vague promises of "creating awareness". Perhaps never before has so much been paid for such nebulous results. (Do I hear you say, Praise Be for the Mortar?).

There is an important point here. The Web has returned the power of choice to the people.

But then again think of what we will miss?

My kids will never discover they like the "B" side more than the hit.

And who wants to throw away all those shoeboxes full of aging photographs? Which of us has not spent a few fond, unexpected hours, rummaging through boxes of family photos?

For the full perspective on this dimension of the consumer-internet revolution, read the full story here.


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