If you’ve been paying any attention to conversations about “modern business” — on TV, or in books, or in blogs — you’ve heard a lot about how the rules have changed, business is different, it’s a whole new ball game, blah blah blah. It’s kind of a required topic for a small business writer, so here’s my essay:
Once Upon A Time. . .
. . . communicating with far away people was very expensive, and only a few could afford to do it. And the more people you wanted to talk to, the more expensive it was, so that only a few big, very rich Corporations could afford to do it. And only a few, very rich Big Corporations could afford to pay those corporations for the right to use their communication ability. And so the era of Commercial Television was born.
In the era of commercial television, everyone wanted TV ads, because TV ads could sell anything, even if the product was terrible. Because communication was so expensive, “consumers” couldn’t afford to talk to each other, so they didn’t know the product was terrible until they bought it. This made Corporate Executives very happy, because their job was easy: make new stuff and buy TV ads! Small businesses couldn’t compete, because they couldn’t buy TV ads, so they went out of business. Corporate Executives liked that, too, because it left more “consumers” for them.
Then one day, a small pest came to the land of Commercial Television. It didn’t seem dangerous: it had a bright, colorful logo, not like the serious important-looking logos of the Big Corporations. And it had a silly name: Google. The Corporate Executives weren’t worried — no one would ever take such a silly-looking company seriously.
But they did! Google got lots and lots of money and sold its stock at really high prices and people bought it! And more pests came! Facebook! Twitter! YouTube! Blogs! Podcasts! Oh Nos!
Now “consumers” could talk to each other. And it turned out that consumers — all consumers, everywhere — are actually people. They do things that people do, like camping and laughing and procrastinating. They like things that people like, like connecting to other people, telling stories, and having their lives made easier. And they don’t like things that people don’t like, like being manipulated by Big Corporations into buying Stupid Stuff.
But the Corporate Executives weren’t worried. They knew the secret to persuading people: TV ads. Big Corporations spent more money on TV ads, so they could drown out the message from the pests, and run them out of business. Only it turned out that people had stopped being consumers buying stuff from the TV. It turned out that consumers liked being people, and talking to each other. They liked it so much that they turned off their TVs and talked to each other instead.
And so the Big Corporations sulked in the corner until they slowly starved to death, and everyone else lived happily ever after.
The End (for some)
The Beginning (for the rest of us)