Wednesday, February 27, 2008

100% Buyer, 0% Seller

Jeff Jarvis asks a provocative question (imagine the odds): What will the "distributed university look like?"

Start here: Why should my son or daughter have to pick a single college and with it only the teachers and courses offered there? Online, they should be able to take most any course anywhere. Indeed, schools from MIT to Stanford are now offering their curricula the internet.

Similarly, why should a professor pick just from the students accepted at his or her school? Online, the best can pick from the best, cutting out the middleman of university admissions.

Looking way out into the future (but, hey, Sam Zell is saying that nupes will be OK — in 30 years!), I wonder if we are rubbing up against forces that will expose the limitations of the free market as it relates to supply.

  • If aggregators become the dominant publishers but do not participate in news gathering, what happens to reporting?
  • If it is a practical truth that any movie or book can be obtained easily and at no additional cost to ownership of the pipe, who will make them?

I don’t think Google is destroying the news business, nor to I completely agree with Michael Eisner’s oft-repeated rant that discounting DVDs ruins that business because it gets people used to low prices. And it's also very true that the ability to pirate software hasn't destroyed Microsoft.

But the market forces Jeff describes in this piece are real and they will have a real disturbing effect, even if some entrenched interests can postpone them.

When the smoke clears we will all still be consumers, but how many of us will be creators? What will the creator eco-system even look like?

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