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Fortune-telling and the marketer's task

Looking for an example of how hard it is to market technology products in a fast changing and capricious world? How about the--until now--theoretical battle between music download and temporary music subscription?

The music download model is the one that is more familiar to us. Services like Apple's iTunes allow you to download digital music files which you then own and use as you see fit (as long as you don't share them with your friends).

Things are about to get a bit more complicated however. Cnet ran a story last week about a new technology called Janus that would enable a kind of "renting" of music files by enabling the expiration of files after a certain amount of time.

The question then becomes: will people want to pay a little less for something that they only use temporarily? After all, music is different from videos where there is a precedent for renting media either from the video store or an online service like Netflix: people are still much more interested in keeping a "music collection".

The problem is not much of a problem for anyone except marketers at online music services (like Napster) or at device makers (like Samsung) who have to decide if and how to market the new technology. Of course, there is no way of knowing how the market will react to the service, and everyone involved must suspect that people will not want to pay for something that will eventually just disappear.

April 5, 2004 in New product launches | Permalink