Thursday, February 8, 2007

Please Remove Headphones Before Reading This

A post over on Sparky’s blog about banning the use of headphones at street crossings made me think back to the Marketing class I had at good-old Widener U. Really. Marketing is an interesting area of business, and it changes with the times. One thing that does not change are the people to whom we sell products. Here’s the theory we learned [drum roll]:

The Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovations Theory. For any given product category, there are five categories of product adopters [Hold your applause until all the honorees have been introduced]:

  • Innovators – venturesome, educated, multiple info sources.
  • Early adopters – social leaders, popular, educated.
  • Early majority – deliberate, many informal social contacts.
  • Late majority – skeptical, traditional, lower socio-economic status.
  • Laggards – neighbors and friends are main info sources, fear of debt.

End of marketing lesson. What I’m getting at, in my own odd fashion, is that consumers have adapted to technology faster than the government or business. Case in point, my post from yesterday, when I bemoaned the fact that my Yahoo mail account had been blocked by people whom I refer to as the Internet Nazis (which may not be fair to the real Nazis).

I would place most consumers in the “early” categories, and most employers in the “late” or “laggards” category, which is where the conflict starts. Business has been slow to adapt to changes in technology that are used by their employees, who are consumers when they’re not working. Employers do not want to spend money to prevent something that consumers want, like e-mail at work. It’s an odd juxtaposition of wants, unless the employer is one of the innovators.

In 1975, when I started working, the big issue was personal phone calls. We used to get a copy of the company’s phone bill, and we had to check off our personal calls and pay the company for the charges. We spent an hour to find 40 cents.

Now, the issue is Internet usage. Same issue, different technology. Companies pay people in I.T. departments thousands of dollars to install spam blockers and regulate Internet usage, and they’re treated like war heroes. The trouble is, they were late to the party. It took them a long time to get a handle on what was happening, and their slow reaction time has made it difficult on the consumer (an employee when they’re working) to change a behavior that is now commonplace.

Napster, MySpace, Ebay and even blogging are all victims of slow adaptation by regulatory agencies. While consumers are quick to grasp onto the technology, the people in charge of overseeing have been either asleep or slow in recognizing what consumers want and how they will go about getting it.

Free music, for one, is a hot-button issue, which is surprising, since consumers have been griping about the high price of CDs for years. Fifteen bucks for an album that’s 30 years old? Why wouldn’t people want to download it free? After all, most of us already bought it at least once before, so we figure they are still spending that money, but the law wasn't put in place until well after consumers had grown fond of getting their music free. If business was really on top of things, they would have figured that out beforehand.

Meanwhile, we are going to have to persevere while lawmakers and attorneys figure out how they are going to deal with something that we have already figured out. In the meantime, there are going to be a lot of ridiculous laws made. In 25 years, we’ll be laughing at them, just as we laugh now at how, in parts of Kansas “all cars entering the city limits must first sound their horn to warn horses of their arrival” or that in New Jersey “it is illegal to delay or detain a homing pigeon.

This too, shall pass. Today’s e-mail is tomorrow’s homing pigeon.


bananas62 said...

You scare me sometimes, that you would write about something that effected me, today, as a matter of I found out...
1) I can no longer "blog" at work, because for some reason I can't sign on to my account..I can read them, cant reply to them...
2)I can't shoot hubby any emails at his work. it comes back undeliverable....
3) He can't shoot me any emails and ...I'm not valid? What the hell?
4)My work email was deleted from his address book, and this wouldn't be something he would or could do, not a computer kind of guy...
but MY our home email was left alone...
go figure?

Anthony said...

I scare myself sometimes. Our Nazis are very protective of the work e-mail system, and I can understand that. It's why I don't use it for anything other than work stuff. When I lost my personal e-mail, that's when I got worked up.
Our guys use a program called Websense. It's pretty powerful, but so far, I haven't had any issues with personal addresses.

Buy a pigeon. :-)

Pam said...

Geez. The more I read about other people's workplaces, the more I appreciate my own.