The retention equation: What remains is what we want

Movie theatres. Books and music stores. Local televison and radio. Magazines and newspapers. Sale flyers. Board games.

Dumbphones. Halloween.

All are examples of chunks of our pre-modern culture that remain with us still,  stubbornly so, even as technologies have warp-nined past them, creating an illusion that nobody wants these pesky old leftovers of the new way of doing things.

Steve Jobs helped perpetuate that illusion to his great profit and our apparent salvation. His driving passion to create the future made the persisting promise that old was bad and new was good, and that those who didn’t keep up would be left in the dust, deemed irrelevant forever.

He made mega-billions because he successfully cracked that old chestnut MBA students learn in basic economics: you make money by meeting or creating nothing more than a need. A product that can do both will succeed beyond imagination.

But what Jobs never got was the great swath of society who lived in the in-between the now and the future, the people who LIKED keeping a foot in the past, one in the future present, and a third, if they had one, dangling somewhere in the middle.

These people are causing great confoundment among board room types and caffeinated nerds for whom one innovation must lead automatically to the next, that change is inevitable and necessary for the great benefit of the human race.

It is why we see the stubborn resistance of the consumer to refrain from eschewing what they know works, what they know gives them comfort and pleasure, what they know sparks a warm ember to their past.

It’s why we’ve seen grasps at restoring vinyl records, why collectibles are so, well collectible, why small businesses whose niches are those products that warm hearts.

Those people — and it is people, not an inflated and imagined marketplace — rule the world. They command the dollars that will eventually see any corporation rise or fall.

Right now, they are deciding life is not to be lived wholey in front of a screen or applied with a handheld device. Maybe someday they will, but the bits of our likeable past and present won’t leave quickly, no matter what our high priests of technology proclaim.

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1 comment
  1. John Willman said:

    You are so right Joe!
    We (professors) are often afraid to admit that we adhere to old technologies. Especially, I may add, a particular professor who is developing a new Mobile Media Management program for the college. I hate to admit it but I still love to read a “real” newspaper in the morning; I just haven’t found a mobile substitute that gives the same experience.

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