Learning From History. Not!

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George Bernard Shaw, famously said, “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”. How true that is.

Karl Long over at the Experience Curve blog has an interesting post about Big Advertisers Insanity: The Upfront for a Theoretical YouTube Killer. He describes how NBC, News Corp, Yahoo and others are planning killer competition for the 100 million video clips per day YouTube website. Attracted by the opportunity to sterilise and control the content to be offered up on the new website, General Motors, E-surance and Royal Caribean have already signed up for it before the first electronic brick has been laid.

This followed hot on the heels of a German language article in One to One marketing magazine about Theseus: Nicht den Faden Verlieren (Theseus: Don’t Lose The Way). The story describes how the German government along with Siemens, SAP, Bertelsmann & T-Systems plan to spend Euro 400 million developing a new semantic search engine called Theseus. This money was originally earmarked for the joint France-Germany search engine project called Quaero, until France pulled out to develop its own search engine. Although the German government denies that Theseus is intended as competition for Google, not too many people seem to be believing them.

Both ventures seem not to have learned anything from history. The YouTube copycat hasn’t learned the lesson that customers increasingly want to control their own communications destiny. They don’t want to be spoon-fed corporate advertising any more. At best they want to control its intake, at worst they don’t want to see it at all. And the Google copycat hasn’t learned the lesson that government directed investment programmes have an awful record of not delivering the innovation goods. Free markets have proven themselves far better at deciding what is going to be a hit and at bringing it to market efficiently & effectively.

What do you think? Should we leave innovation to the free market? Or is there a role for old style managed R&D on a massive-scale in today’s hyper-competitive environment?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

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