This post originally appeared on Point Line Square on January 2, 2012.
There are only two parts of the content value chain you cannot remove: the content creator and content consumer. That’s a paraphrase of an unknown journalist from the June 5, 2008 issue of the Economist who said:
“Publishing has only two indispensable participants: authors and readers. As with music, any technology that brings these two groups closer makes the whole industry more efficient– but hurts those who benefit from the distance between them.”
So if you want to play in the space between, you need to provide some value in reducing one or more of the following four barriers:
We use talent and money to overcome these barriers. In recent years, there’s been a tremendous decline across the board in all of them. Modern development tools and increased hardware power have put a huge dent in the existence barrier. Delivery friction is virtually zero given modern bandwidth costs. Commercialization is almost plug-n-play. Even discovery has been dramatically improved with the advent of Facebook’s viral channels.
As these barriers drop, a number of interesting things happen:
There’s a bit of a feedback loop here. If more products make it over the transom the discovery barrier goes up, for example. And when a company has an effective monopoly over one solution (e.g. Facebook’s discovery advantage) they can intentionally raise barriers in other parts of the value chain, so long as the net gain is still positive for content creators.