Sunday, November 29, 2009

When More Choice means... Less Choice.

Obviously the Internet has changed the world of entertainment (often referred to as ‘culture’ in French), in ways that are still hard to assess. The Economist has a lengthy report this week on the future of entertainment. Their analysis, based on figures and studies, can be summed up in the following paradox: the more choice you have, the less choice you make.

Blockbusters are doing well not in spite of the fact that people have more choice in entertainment, but because of it. Imagine walking into a music shop containing 4m songs (the number available on We7, a free music-streaming service in Britain) or more than 10m (the choice on iTunes), all of them arranged alphabetically in plain boxes. The choice would be overwhelming. It is far easier to grab the thing everybody is talking about or that you heard on the radio that morning.

Hence the increasing importance of the social dimension when buying entertainment products. I found it quite relevant. If you are like me, you may have also felt overwhelmed by the number of products now available, even to the point of freezing. Too many alternatives are impossible to process of course, you will go more easily towards the product you have heard of.

As a result, it seems that even though people have more choice they do not necessarily opt for more obscure entertainments. Of course, the internet has vastly increased the supply of niche media but, according to The Economist, it has also increased the supply of blockbusters.

The unfortunate result is that sales become more concentrated, be they in movies, books, music or newspapers. As for the less popular products, they will inevitably be more expensive (as it is on television with for example HBO).

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