Thursday, December 01, 2005

The genius of Netflix


"And this brings me to the genius of NetFlix. I have been trying to figure out what's so charming about the model. (I have only been signed up for a couple of months. Thanks to Tom Guarriello for getting me started.) Partly, it is the sheer pleasure of getting a 'surprise in the mail.' Partly, it is the sheer convenience of filling the 'Q' at my leisure and having them fill orders at theirs. Partly, it's the blessing of assisted choice and those, sometimes cunning, recommendations. (Was there anything so depressing as going to a video store to stare at the containers of really bad movies in order to find the one you wanted.)

But mostly the power of Netflix comes from it's creation of 'access constrained by interval' and the recreation of a kind of scarcity (a 'managed scarcity'). With Netflix, I have access to just about all the movies in the world. But, given my subscription model, they come to me only 2 at a time.

Two movies are not a lot. In a world of nearly limitless access, this should be irksome. But it ain't, of course, because these are almost always exactly the movies that interest me. Two movies has a deeper virtue. 'Two movies' is an elimination of all the movies that might otherwise bid for my attention, damaging my sense of value and, God knows, even my identity formation. (And there's been quite enough of that, already.)

The fulfillment model is especially clever. I can speed up the interval at which I receive new movies. I do so merely by returning the old ones. This is an interval I do not choose or need to dwell upon. It is set in train naturally when I finish watching my present movies. In effect, I am setting my own wave. I am managing access. "

I stole a big chunk of the above post, but the Netflix bit is actually a small portion of the overall essay. Read more

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