Content/Product does matter Mr. Jarvis

Jeff Jarvis holds forth on why content, distribution does not matter anymore and all media (though I suppose he extends this to all businesses) companies should stop being childish and learn to create trust with their consumers.

WTF??

This kind of sermons bug me out completely. I have 2 problems with this argument:

1. Trust is not created in vacuum. My customers trust me only if I create something they value. All customers demand, to paraphrase Rod Tidwell, to see the value first! then they will decide whether to trust me or not. To make it even more explicit, trust does not come first; I, as a business owner, have to do something for my prospect that he tries my product. If his experience with my products is good, he will learn to trust me over time and will give me more business; if I screw up with my product or with billing or with delivery or in support, he will not come back.

If media or music companies are in trouble today, it is not because they are sitting like idiots on content that is useless; heck, I would be surprised if record companies do not generate more than 50% of their revenues from old albums; but because they are not making it easier for folks with money to buy only the songs they want. iTunes came along, did this and is now laughing all the way to the bank.

2. There is nothing new in this argument. Businesses always need to create trust if they want to be successful over a period of time. Maybe earlier, the issues of trust, product and distribution are monolithic and hence customers looked for placeholders to who they can assign this trust. This can be a Disney or a P&G or an IBM. Almost every company started selling direct; P&G, Avon, Levi Strauss & Co, Gillette all of them reached the customer directly, offered their products, created value and earned trust. The emphasis is on earning. This does not happen just because someone is giving stuff away for free; it happens because whatever is that stuff, we enjoyed using it and are therefore willing to come back for more. So what is the key here? The quality of content; not the relationship, not the reputation. Pixar is fantastic; I will watch their next movie, buy their next DVD and recommend them without hesitation; but, and this is a big but; if they make a movie I don’t like, I will be very careful next time round. So what happened to all the trust they built up over the past 4–5 movies?

The point is, Internet and especially web 2.0 has made us extremely demanding consumers of services. We feel we have the right to perfect or near perfect service because we are paying and since we are short of time; earlier if we were unhappy with a product or company, we just accepted it since it is difficult to find an alternative; now, the alternatives are not only a click away, we can even go online and scream our heads off about how horrible the companies are.

Somewhere, I get the feeling that Internet does not only deflate industry economics, but it also demeans businesses. All this unprecedented access to information has finally shown that emperor has no clothes. Instead of handling this with grace, we relish the hairy, intimate details exposed and feel comfortable in our smug superiority. For heaven’s sake, these are normal people like you and me, who mess up, don’t learn fast enough, forget stuff and make a mess in the loo. When was the last time this made you not only breakup with your partner, but also rip them a new hole in a public forum?

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