Be First in Your Own Category

Here comes the singularity.

Be first in your own category is advice often given to entrepreneurs and startups. In the real world, the one with flowers and trees, business depends on the second brand to create competitive pressure. As Al and Laura Ries set out so well in their book, ‘The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding,’ if there’s a Ford, there has to be a GM. If there’s a Costco, there will be a Walmart. The need for a second brand is driven by the suppliers, and by the customers. They ask for competitive pricing pressure because they want to comparison shop. If there were no second brand to compete, the dominant brand could do whatever it wants. It would be a monopoly. It would set pricing, availability, position on the shelves.

Does that monopolistic behavior sound familiar?  It should, because it’s just what Amazon is doing right now. The internet’s 900-pound gorilla has been choking off the supplies of books published by Hachette and movies distributed by Disney. David Streitfeld’s reporting on this in the New York Times …

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Remind me what wants to be free

500 Words | Written by Lee Schneider

‘Information wants to be free’ is an iconic phrase attributed to Stewart Brand, who founded the Whole Earth Catalogue. Apparently he first spoke the phrase to no less a luminary than Steve Wozinak, the other, nicer Steve behind Apple.

So the phrase has an awesome pedigree. Certainly, information’s desire to be free is a good thing. It encourages openness and transparency, and can even stop politicians from acting like fools because we find out about their foolishness pretty soon. So far, so good. When do things other than information become free? Do we draw a line in pixels somewhere?

Music downloads legal and otherwise have driven the market to the bottom (if you consider .99 the bottom), and digital books have transformed the book market – in a good way if you like the editorial freedom to self-publish and reach a large audience, and in a bad way if you are a publisher who wants to push traditional hardcover books. If you are a newspaper or magazine publisher who is not transforming …

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