Skip to comments.(Vanity) The Digital Convergence and Mass Customization
Posted on 02/26/2006 10:50:48 AM PST by grey_whiskers
Recently, while driving through Phoenix on an errand, I heard a radio commercial which captivated me. It was a very-well done imitation of the voice-over one hears during a severe weather advisory, and went something like this:
(Authoritative male announcer): Extremely strong storms are forecast for the listening area. Heavy rain, strong winds and large hail are likely. If you are in the path of these storms, TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. This warning is effective for
*BEEEEP BOOOP BEEEP* (then, in a soft feminine voice): Please deposit twenty five cents for the next three minutes
Different announcer: Some things are just *meant* to be free. Like radio. This message has been sponsored by the thirteen thousand local radio stations .
Clearly, the local radio stations are feeling the heat from Sirius and from XM radio. Despite the fact that Jack Roberts jumped ship over concerns of out-of-control spending at XM, local radio stations are still feeling the heat. And the threat. So they are striking back with advertisement : we may not give you all the content you want all the time, but, hey, were FREE. And thats the way its supposed to be.
The whole episode is reminiscent of a time now long past. I remember seeing signs (in the 60s and 70s) outside of movie theaters, which said Fight Pay TV!. Clearly the thinking went like this: If there is Pay TV, who will go to movie theaters anymore? Well, with the 20-20 wisdom of hindsight, we can see what has happened since then. There has been Pay TV (Cable), and people watch Cable all the time. But this has not prevented them from going to the movies. In fact, Cable TV has been one more place to show the movies following their theatrical release. Instead, the danger to Movie Theaters was first places like Blockbuster, where people could wait until the movie had left theaters, and then watch at their own time and pace; supplanted quickly by Netflix, and possibly supplanted by direct downloading of content. Caveat emptor has become Vinceste, emptor!.
And so it is with the Radio Industry. When there is no reason to tune in to your local station to hear the music you want, or the talk show hosts you want, since you can just go to Sirius or XM, what will happen? One of two things. First, many of the stations could dry up and blow away. Second, many of the stations will re-invent themselves: instead of trying to differentiate themselves on the same canned content that everyone else is offering, they will have to come up with a unique value proposition. Local interest programming? Hot local bands? Again, Vinceste, emptor!. The consumer will not be denied!
But this trend is evident in other places besides radio, and bears further consideration. One of the buzzwords circulating around corporate thought leaders has been mass customization: people want an individually tailored product or experience, and they want it NOW! (Oddly enough, people are also unwilling to divulge enough of their personal information to make targeting their wants easy; and then they have the nerve to complain when they receive spam, which is simply mass UNTARGETED advertising. Choose one or the other, folks, because you cant have both.) The corporate question of the day becomes, How is one to achieve this, to make money off of it?
As it turns out, the answer is, We dont know for sure, yet. Recall that large scale organizations, with more-or-less rigid hierarchies, systems, and processes, are designed for one thing: maximization of throughput. They are very good at producing lots of identical little cookie cutter widgets. In other words, they have the Mass right, but arent so good at the Customization.
What ingredients are necessary for customization? First, either very cheap parts, or interchangeable, modular parts. If you have to design, tool, and build an assembly line; or if you have a lot of overhead to amortizeyou will not be able to customize easily. Second, a high degree of independence. I recall an apocryphal story of a major US manufacturer in the Midwest where the workers wanted to have a water fountain put on the factory floor for the hot summer months. By the time the request wended its way up to the C-level for approval, and back down, summer was over. I think the water fountain was put in in time for the first frost. If you cannot exhibit flexibility, whether due to too many layers of bureacracy, or an unwillingness to take risks, then you cannot customize. Third, a willingness to respond to customers, an ability to keep your finger on their pulse. One way to do this (think of Amazon.com) is to act merely as a broker for others widgets, rather than to supply your own widgets.
Now, getting to the point, the demise of the old MSM. From the point of view of mass customization, the dinosaurs of the digital age have achieved their desecrated status for a reason. They are geared towards large, expensive, Event-driven content (think of the Olympics and Super Bowl) which are required by their size and cost to attempt to hit the largest possible audience. Its a catch-22: the large advertisers with the deep pockets NEED to hit the largest audience, so they must go to the mass media. It isnt economically feasible for them to do otherwise. And the mass media, by virtue of the fact that they are mass media, NEED the big pockets to pay for their overhead.
By contrast, mass customization is driven not by marketing surveys, not by the need to push a new product for quarterly profits, but organically. Groups of people who have common interests want to congregate together; they want to consider common interests; they build on their network of trust to refer and recommend products and services. As such, mass customization is best facilitated on an environment such as the internet, where small suppliers adapt to the changing needs of micro-markets. As such, the need for intensive marketing budgets is eliminated, since the stickiness or success rate of any marketing effort is much higher than normal. Hmm, small, niche markets highly cohesive interest groups, word of mouth. Sounds a lot like the conservative blogospher, doesnt it?
Isnt it great to be on the cutting edge?
Sirius is doomed, having sold its soul to Howard Stern. And who is going to pay for Oprah?
I'm already noticing how stultifying the canned stuff on my iPod Shuffle is getting...I long for the spontaneity of live radio broadcast...is there such a think anymore?
Sirius is doomed, having sold its soul to Howard Stern. And who is going to pay for Oprah?
I'm already noticing how stultifying the canned stuff on my iPod Shuffle is getting...I long for the spontaneity of live radio broadcast...is there such a thing anymore?
Given your comments, it's ironic that you double-posted.
Reminds me of "KMXP" "MIXX 96" 96.9 FM in Phoenix, "The Best Hits of the 80's, 90's and today" whose playlist seems to consist of four songs:
"Photograph" by Nickelback, "100 Years" by Five for Fighting, "September" by Green Idiot (hate that band) ;-), and "Holiday" by Green Idiot.
And then they have the "Ooh Yah" song of the day, which included such favorites as "Wake me up, Before you Go-Go" by Wham! (George Michael's old band, Brokeback ;-) ) and "Centerfold" by J. Geils Band, and "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye.
I decided to hate "Green Idiot" after I read an interview with them in which "American Idiot" and "Jesus in Suburbia" were explained thusly:
"I basically don't know sh*t about the Bible, so I decided to make it up."
And then they call US ignorant bigots...
yeah, well, i know radio isn't what it used to be...it hasn't been for a long time, either. ;)
Full Disclosure: No, Officer, I wasn't fishing for a compliment. I was using a commercial trawler...
lol. Yep. I sure do love freedom! :)
Don't knock it! I was part of that "must carry-must go!" movement. I wanted to be able to pick my channels. Little by little, that is happening. The Invisible Hand works! :) Sometimes, it takes time.
I enjoyed your well thought-out vanity, grey_whiskers. Thank you for pinging me to it.
I've been checking out some of my old news MSM haunts.. they've all got internet forum "discussion" groups going on. 'Bout time!
New machines could turn homes into small factories
General Science: March 17, 2005
A revolutionary machine which can make everything from a cup to a clarinet quickly and cheaply could be in all our homes in the next few years. Research by engineers at the University of Bath could transform the manufacture of almost all everyday household objects by allowing people to produce them in their own homes at the cost of a few pounds. The new system is based upon rapid prototype machines, which are now used to produce plastic components for industry such as vehicle parts. The method they use, in which plastic is laid down in designs produced in 3D on computers, could be adapted to make many household items.
Image: Dr Andrian Bowyer from the University of Bath with the rapid prototyping machine. However, conventional rapid prototype machines cost around £25,000 to buy. But the latest idea, by Dr Adrian Bowyer, of the Universitys Centre for Biomimetics, is that these machines should begin making copies of themselves. These can be used to make further copies of themselves until there are so many machines that they become cheap enough for people to buy and use in their homes.
Dr Bowyer is working on creating the 3D models needed for a rapid prototype machine to make a copy of itself. When this is complete, he will put these on a website so that all owners of an existing conventional machine can download them for free and begin making copies of his machine. The new copies can then be sold to other people, who can in turn copy the machine and sell on.
As the number of the self-replicating machines there are now thousands of conventional rapid prototype machines grows rapidly, so the price will fall from £25,000 to a few hundred pounds.
People have been talking for years about the cost of these machines dropping to be about the same as a computer printer, said Dr Bowyer. But it hasnt happened. Maybe my idea will allow this to occur.
A machine could, for instance, make a complete set of plates, dishes and bowls out of plastic, coloured and decorated to a design. It could also make metal objects out of a special alloy that melts at low temperatures, making it suitable for use in printed circuit boards for electronics.
The machines would not be able to produce glass items or complex parts such as microchips, or objects that would work under intense heat, such as toasters. But a digital camera could be made for a few pounds, and a lens and computer chip bought separately and added later. The rapid prototype machines would be useful for producing items that are now expensive, such as small musical instruments.
The items produced could be from a few millimetres (0.25 inches) to 300 millimetres (12 inches) in length, width and height. Larger items could be made simply by clipping together parts of this size.
Dr Bowyer said all that would be needed for a machine owner would be to buy the plastic and low-temperature alloy for a few pounds, and items could then be created in a few minutes or a few hours depending on their size. Designs for items could be bought or downloaded free from the web. Alternatively, people could create them for themselves on their own PCs.
He said that he would publish the 3D designs and computer code for the machine to replicate itself on the web over the next four years as they are developed, until the entire machine could be copied.
He said that he has not taken out a patent and will not charge for creating the design for the machine. The most interesting part of this is that were going to give it away, he said.
At the moment an industrial company consists of hundreds of people building and making things. If these machines take off, it will give individual people the chance to do this themselves, and we are talking about making a lot of our consumer goods the effect this has on industry and society could be dramatic.
The machines would be about the size of a refrigerator, and would self-reproduce by making a copy of themselves, part by part. These parts would then have to be assembled manually by their owners.
Dr Bowyer said the machines were a form of Universal Constructor, first proposed theoretically by the mathematician John von Neumann in the 1950s. He also said their progress would be similar to that of a species in nature as the machines replicated, so their users would vary them to suit their needs, some making larger objects, some more accurate devices and some making devices more quickly.
Dr Bowyer, and his colleague Ed Sells, have already created a demonstration robot with an electrical circuit built in using this technology and funding from the Nuffield Foundation. They hope to get new funding soon to begin work on the other stages of development.
Source: University of Bath
Hey, thanks for the link to here. Good points, all.
By way of further analogy (of course, you may have mentioned it, because I didn't read every bit of your initial post) FM radio started out as a toe in the water for AM station owners (or at least, very often), and AM is now sports/racing broadcasts and talk. Talk has also been moving into FM for some years. There is more content and types of content in radio than there is on TV.
TV content has been on the decline for years, both in the kind of garbage seen on the teen channels (BET, MTV, etc), and the numbers of idiotic and increasingly vulgar cartoons (for the chronologically adult, cognitively child audiences), not to mention the unreality TV shows like Survivor. And yet, people still pay pretty big bucks for sat and cable. I dropped cable in, hmm, probably 1999, and haven't much missed it. I doubt I'd ever go back to paying for it.
If cable (old fashioned kind; I loathe digital cable and satellite TV systems) were a la carte, so that I could pay just for the channels I want, I'd probably re-up. Advantages to that approach include, eliminating the intelligence vacuum channels like MTV (important for parents) and also very good feedback to cable providers as to what actually sells. I'd want the local stations, plus Discover, History Channel, and maybe that's it.
That would give the consumer the kind of customization desired and create a much more responsive system, guaranteeing worthwhile content rather than a competition to see which provider can stuff the most worthless stations into the bandwidth.
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