Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
umair haque  


Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Disney 2.0

Guys, I don't have time to do the justice to the huge Disney discussion going on at the moment (I've wasted too much time dealing with Steve Gillmor's idiotic comments instead, sorry).

So let me clarify. I certainly don't think Disney's move is dumb.

If we want to talk about dumb moves - let's call them by a nicer name, long-term errors - the ones that come most immediately to mind are things like NYTSelect, suing your consumers, media which can't by played in other countries, Sony's rootkit debacle, etc.

I just think Disney's move is wrong - in that there is a much better move to make the way the chessboard is configured right now.

Now, lots of people have responded with basically a riff on "big companies need time to find the right path" - guys like Jarvis and even Mike@Techdirt (who, I note, nicely refers to me as "some people" - thanks Mike some guys at Techdirt :).

Guys, I think that is a bit of a nonanswer to tell the truth. Inertia exists in every system. Finding the right strategy is often about overcoming that inertia.

The question I want to ask is Mike, Jeff, Fred (etc) is: would you guys say the same thing for the music industry - "they'll stop suing their customers, just give 'em some time?", or for the film industry, for newspapers, etc?

I doubt it. So why give Disney so much benefit of the doubt? They certainly don't have a history of innovation - if anything, the last 20 years have been a bit of a disaster for Disney.

And I also wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the discussion - it's been the most fun one for a while, IMHO.

Final note for all the commenters who asked for an example of rebundling. Please guys - come on. Surely you can figure this out.

-- umair // 4:34 PM // 8 comments


Hey Umair,

Sorry about the "some people" bit. :) I was using you as the prime example of people who think the move is bad for Disney.

However, as for the rest of your post, it doesn't make much sense to me.

You write:

"would you guys say the same thing for the music industry - "they'll stop suing their customers, just give 'em some time?", or for the film industry, for newspapers, etc?"

When obviously we've said repeatedly that what those guys are doing is wrong, stupid and hopelessly short-sighted.

There is a BIG difference however. What all of those examples are were examples of companies *going in the wrong direction*. They weren't even a step in the right direction.

With the Disney move, it *is* a step in the right direction. And while you're right that Disney has a long history of doing things very, very wrong, they are under new management now, and Robert Iger has at least shown that he's open to these new ideas and wants to push the envelope in the right direction.

Certainly, they could go further. But, this *is* a step in the right direction -- rather than their traditional step in the wrong direction.
// Anonymous Anonymous // 1:34 AM

Hmm. Not sure what happened in the comment above. My name and URL was attached when I previewed. But whe I published, it said I was anonymous. Will try it again...
// Anonymous Mike Masnick // 1:35 AM

Hey guys,

Don't worry about the name thing, I was just teasing you to be honest.

Your distinction between steps in the right/wrong direction is a good one though - I appreciate it.

I just disagree this is really a move in the right direction - so, I guess we will have to wait + see how it pans out.

Thx for the comments + your very enjoyable Disney posts.
// Blogger umair // 1:50 AM

Maybe its an attempt to take a step in the right direction but they end up stepping in it?
// Anonymous Alex in Los Angeles // 4:57 PM

Hi Umair,

Hope this is not too big a tangent, but I do not agree with your comment that TimesSelect represents a long-term error. I think the jury is still out, and for now the new service seems to be holding its own.

This is from the latest NYT earnings statement:

TimesSelect has approximately 465,000 subscribers � 62 percent home subscribers and about 38 percent online-only.

Robinson: "To put an exact number in regard to how large we think this is going to be, I think would not necessarily be in keeping with what our plan would be, but from a perspective of how we are looking at the initial effort, really, only six, seven months into it we are extremely pleased with what we have seen."

I wrote a long post about my time at the Times and opinion on the service when it launched in September:

Is Paul Krugman Worth $49.95?

Great blog, btw.
// Blogger George Nimeh // 5:03 PM

Re: TimesSelect

Since print subscribers get Select for free, that means 148,800 people have thusfar given the Times $49.95 a year = $7.5m

Not a bad #, but not exactly setting the house on fire. I wonder if the experiment with Select has something to do with the fact that advertisers might avoid Down, Friedman, and anything that is too opinionated like the plague. Speaking of microchunking, in the past it was a lot harder for an advertiser to say "I don't want to be next to that particular column" when the page is a big double-wide with 4 opinion columns and 3 news articles.

I do think there is a model for paid content, but I don't think Select is it. Even if the highest-paying advertisers don't flock to opinion, it's something which has the potential unlike almost anything else to bring in new users/eyeballs.
// Anonymous Tedrich // 5:58 AM

The reason that Times Select is a bad idea is because it puts inverse pressure on the value equation. Opinions don't have intrinsic value like other forms. Answer this question: Is your opinion more valuable or less valuable if more people read it? ... More valuable. If you charge more money, will more people or less people read it? Less. So to make your opinion more valuable, you have to charge less for it. If you don't find that a contradiction, then I can't explain it to you.
// Blogger Tom Cordova-Caddes // 6:51 AM

Black fades to white in shades of gray. I worked in large companies my entire career and I know that no change comes overnight, certainly no revolution throwing off every old business model. ABC by no means reached the promised land. But the journey does start with one step, no? And pissing off affiliates, MSOs, and retail chains to take a step into the distributed future is, indeed, a step.
// Blogger Jeff Jarvis // 1:44 AM

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