Debate Magazine

The Digital Revolution is Not About the Digital

By Stevemiranda

My favorite sports writer is a guy named Bill Simmons, from ESPN.com. He also hosts a podcast in which he invites prominent guests on his show to talk sports.

His latest guest: Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard.

What does Ticketmaster have to do with sports? This:

NBA owners have locked out the players until the two sides can come to a new collective bargaining agreement. The problem, of course, is money. One piece of this problem is that fans aren’t buying season tickets like they used to. For many, the at-home experience of watching the game in HD, on a big screen, on a comfy oversize chair—for free—is simply a better option than paying hundreds of dollars for tickets, parking, hot dogs, beer, and an uncomfortable chair 300 feet from the action.

And, why spend the money for all 41 home games? There are websites now that allow fans to buy tickets easily for only the games they want to attend.

The economics of professional sports is changing.

* * *

The conversation veered from selling NBA tickets to selling music concert tickets. Hubbard speculates that the age of the rock star is declining. The next generation will see fewer gigantic stadium concerts and a corresponding rise in 2,000-5,000 seat shows in which the experience is more intimate. The ability for musical acts to use the Internet to market their own talent, and connect with a tribe of dedicated followers, diminishes the power of the mass marketing.

Selling recorded music is also in a period of rapid transformation. The emergence of websites like Spotify and Pandora are making it clear that things will never, ever go back to the old way. The new way is about personalization and connecting with a tribe. Hubbard explains,

“Music consumption is at an all-time high. The people who can filter down the crap and know you, Bill Simmons, and everything you like and tailor new stuff to you . . . those are the people who are going to win.”

* * *

These are just couple examples. Consider the increasing reliance of political campaigns on “narrowcasting” to replace broadcasting as a strategy for connecting with potential voters. Every industry is engaged in this revolution of moving from broad to narrow, mass to personalized.

That includes education, too. The danger, however, is that schools will replace textbooks with iPads and call it innovation. That misses the point entirely. The digital revolution is not about the digital, it’s about using digital technology to create a more custom experience for the individual.

The teachers and schools who understand you, everything you like and tailor your education to you . . . those are the people that are going to win.


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