First it threatened the music industry, then movies, then the news media. Now the internet is starting to worry any number of industries and even governments with unprecedented online interconnectedness across communities and borders.
With no end in sight to the disruptive impact of online technology, here’s a handy how-to guide for wealthy, powerful industries that want to respond to the fact that people are using the internet to avoid giving them money:
- This is important: make sure you completely fail to understand the possibilities offered by the internet in providing a better product to your customers. That of course might involve moving away from the comfortable business model that has served you — if not your customers — so well for generations, and possibly even require some vision, investment and risk taking — hardly the stuff of entrepreneurship. Continue to treat your customers like passive sources of cash without minds of their own.
- Initially dismiss the internet as a non-issue that poses no threat to you and will never replace the authentic experience you offer via real world objects such as CDs, newspapers or shops. If it’s online, it isn’t real, so how could anyone treat it as real?
- When it becomes a serious threat, reach into your bag of stereotypes. Play the nationalism card, suggesting only those nasty foreigners benefit from the internet, and not the honest working folk in your own country whose continuing employment is the real goal of your business activities, not accumulating personal wealth. If that doesn’t work, use various other stereotypes, such as suggesting that using the internet supports organised crime, p-edophilia or terrorism.
- Start claiming there’s something unlawful about the internet. Argue that what your customers or online competitors are doing is illegal, even if it isn’t. Start combing legislation for something to charge people with, or threaten to sue your customers or competitors to deter them. Rail against competitors as “parasites” sponging off your hard work.
- If there’s no specific legislative prohibition on what your customers and competitors are doing, demand that governments make one. Do that even if normally you devote all your time to campaigning for smaller government and less “red tape” for business.
- Run a media campaign — in old media outlets — against your online competitors that is so laughable its only result is to draw further attention to your competitors and make you an object of internet mockery.
- Finally, sit back and watch your industry become home to smarter, third-party players who have worked out how to offer your customers an effective online service, transferring a substantial chunk of what should be your profits to them.
These handy tips have been tried and tested by several industries who have had to deal with the threat of the internet. You’ll find they work for you just as well as they’ve worked in other sectors!
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