Sunday 28 February 2010

Is there another way?

There is a standing joke on Titter and other places that the Digital Economy Bill should really be called the Analogue Economy (Preservation) Bill. This is somewhat unfair to large chunks of businesses that are managing to make money in the current climate. Bill Thompson said during an interesting presentation at Digital Lounge Sheffield this week that we shouldn’t use “Dinosaur” as derogatory term as they had a brilliant response to the rise of the mammals in evolving into birds. I think that this argument actually strengthens the term for this use in that anyone (or corporation or indeed whole industry) that watches the birds emerge and decides to stay as a lumbering terrible lizard deserves to be mocked.

So who has got it right and is making money from a product that is freely available both online or shared amongst your friends and has even been reported as having increasing revenues through the recession? Seems if you want to be a success story in this day and age you need to sell cookery books. After a flourish in Late Antiquity they started to re-appear in the late thirteenth century[1] and have been around pretty consistently since; so the business of wrapping up bundles of recipes in a nice format is hardly a spring chicken, but it is still seems a very successful sector.

Why is this interesting? Well do a little experiment, pick up a cookbook and flick to a recipe or just decide on something you want to make. Go to your favourite search engine and put the name of the dish followed by “recipe” or just pick an ingredient and do the same and you are likely to get thousands of results. You may even find that you find the recipe from the book you looked at or another one by the same author, these people are happily giving away content to you and are competing well against completely free recipes. But despite all these freely available recipes large expensive full colour hardback books full of the things are still selling and getting places in the bestseller lists.

Another difference is that they are not calling for sanctions against their customer base such as taking their ability to buy Maldon sea salt away or suspending their use of pasta machines. Nor are they suggesting that chippies will be banned from providing salt and vinegar if one of the shop’s customers is found to be making knock off batter as there is little to be gained by attacking legitimate value add services that are part of someone else’s business model. The only thing that seems to be lacking these days from the recipe industry is the lack of gigs these days, it has been ages since I saw a live cookery demonstration tour advertised, you have to go sign up to a course somewhere instead.

Now I might spend some time mooching through my library of cookery books or maybe looking for interesting recipes online and wondering where I might find someone who can supply me with Squirrels or calf testicles at this time on a Sunday.


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