Convenience Trumps Fidelity in Most Markets

Fredric Dannen, author of Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business participated in a quorum on the Freakonomics blog looking at the music industry. While laying out his take on the industry, he made the argument that convenience wins out over fidelity:

Whats the Future of the Music Industry? A Freakonomics Quorum

My epiphany, if you want to call it that, was simply this: consumers of recorded music will always embrace the format that provides the greatest convenience. No other factor — certainly not high fidelity — will move consumers substantially to change their listening and buying habits. The single exception to this rule was the introduction of two-channel stereo in the late fifties.

That’s a brilliant point. People want their music, and they want it in easy to consume formats. Tapes are easier to consume than records. MP3s are easier still since you can put thousands of them on a relatively indestructible Nano.

As I’ve thought about this concept, it’s become clear to me that convenience wins out over fidelity many other markets as well. Here are a few that come to mind:

1. Cell Phones – sound quality sucks compared to land lines, but I haven’t had a land line for 7 years. The quality goes down another step when you add a BlueTooth headset, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing down people who live off audio communications.

2. Fast Food – the food sucks compared to what you could make yourself. But that doesn’t stop people from eating a ridiculous number of meals in their cars.

3. BitTorrent – it’s easier to steal music, movies, and TV shows than buy them today.

4. CraigsList – it’s easier to post ads and search for ads on Craigslist than most every newspaper’s classifieds site. And it has RSS so you can create persistent searches for your RSS reader.

5. Travel – it is more convenient to run a search for a flight to Vegas on Expedia than it is to talk to an agent to has to describe to you what she’s seeing on her screen.

What would you add to the list?

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