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Audience Chooses Efficiency over Serendipity

060509Although it's not very readable, on the left is Amazon's recommendation page for me. Instead of browsing the bookstore, I can select and tune how I get my recommendations. I don't see the big fancy display at the front of the local bookstore at all.

As the number of media choices explodes, members of the audience have to manage their attention. Jason Fry, a Wall Street Journal columnist, does a good job of analyzing how he trades off choices and reducing the amount of time he spends browsing. Interruption marketing becomes less and less available, and persuading people to give permission to send marketing messages will become more challenging in the future. How can you become a preferred provider of information? I can think of two ways: quality and connections. Can you think of others?

WSJ.com: Real Time column by Jason Fry, May 8, 2006

In 10 years of bending technology to my will (or, possibly, being bent by it), I've consistently opted for power and efficiency at the expense of serendipity. Reading a physical newspaper, flipping channels on the TV remote, wandering around a bookstore or thumbing through used CDs is about serendipity. Filtering one's news, picking programs to record on TiVo, making an Amazon wish list and buying music digitally is about power and efficiency. (Though it should be noted that online, serendipity is emerging in new forms, through lists of most-popular stories and recommendation engines.)

The truth is, I don't miss serendipity. As with a lot of things, our memories are rather selective, remembering the occasional entertaining show we found channel-surfing but forgetting the hours upon hours we spent cycling through the channels while our significant others grew homicidal.