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Four stages of digital disruption

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Four stages of digital disruption

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I’ve been thinking about the ways in which media industries (and others) have been disrupted by the world of digital, and am playing around with the idea of four key stages:


The world where things existed in analogue and physical form. Think record shops and vinyl and cassettes. Think bookshops and libraries. Think news agents and newspapers.

Digital transactions

When the world of the physical became intermediated by websites. Think Amazon in its early days. It’s a place where a lot of the public library system in the UK current sits.

Digital fulfilment

When both the purchasing and delivery of the content become completely delivered across the internet. Think iTunes in music. Think Kindle in the world of books.

Digital transformation

Once the link between transaction and fulfilment has been totally digitized, there’s then the opportunity to rethink business models. In media, most obviously, this has been in the breaking down of the pay-per-item nature of music or film consumption through subscription models offered through the likes of Spotify or Netflix.

Non-media business can be seen to go through similar stages, although there are certain business types where it’s hard to imagine a completely digital delivery – take what Uber and others are doing to the world of taxi travel, for example.

Step changes generally happen with outsiders taking the lead (see: Amazon, Apple, Spotify…), and sometimes happen at the boundary of legality (Napster a great example in the world of music).

Thoughts welcomed.


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