It all starts in 2005 with a Power Point presentation in Paris. At the time, Schibsted ASA, the Norwegian media group, is busy deploying its free newspapers in Switzerland, France and Spain. Schibsted wants its French partner Ouest-France ??? the largest regional newspapers group ??? to co-invest in a weird concept: free online classifieds. As always with the Scandinavian, the deck of slides is built around a small number of key points. To them, three symptoms attest to the maturity of a market???s online classified business: (a) The number one player in the field ranks systematically among the top 10 web sites, regardless of the category; (b) it is always much bigger than the number two; (c) it reaps most of the profits in the sector.
We get closer to the heart of the matter when we look at a common thought pattern, an age-old and dangerously misleading algorithm:
The [new thing] is like the [old thing] only [smaller | bigger]
We’ve seen this formula, and its abuse, before. Decades ago, incumbents had to finally admit that minicomputers weren’t simply small mainframes. Manufacturers, vendors, software makers had to adapt to the constraints and benefits of a new, different environment. A semi-generation later, we saw it again: Microcomputers weren’t diminutive minicomputers but truly personal machines that consumers could lift with their arms, minds, and credit cards.
And nothing is more personal than the handset. We might have, in an era when “receive only” was the available option, accepted commercials on transistor radios, but we never did with the Walkman.
There is a continuum from cinema to the handset, along a number of dimensions, that suggests the conclusion of this article is correct.